Our ability to identify the timing and extent of past major climate fluctuations is central to understanding changes in the global climate system. Of the events that have occurred in recent geological time, the Younger Dryas (YD, 13–11.5 ka), an abrupt return to near-glacial conditions during the last glacial–interglacial transition (ca. 18–11.5 ka), is one of the most widely reported. While this event is apparent throughout the Northern Hemisphere (Peteet, 1995), evidence for its occurrence in the Southern Hemisphere remains equivocal due to a lack of well-dated terrestrial records. Here we report high-resolution stable carbon and nitrogen isotope records obtained from a rock hyrax midden, revealing the first unequivocal terrestrial manifestation of the YD from the southern African subtropics. These results provide key evidence for the relative influence of the YD, and suggest that a subtropical-temperate transition zone existed along the oceanic Subtropical Front (∼41°S) across the Southern Hemisphere, with the Northern Hemisphere exerting a strong influence on all but the higher latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere after the Heinrich Stadial 1 (15 ka).

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