The Orce region has one of the best late Pliocene and early Pleistocene continental paleobiological records of Europe. It is situated in the northeastern sector of the intramontane Guadix-Baza Basin (Granada, Andalusia, southern Spain). Here we describe a new fossil hominin tooth from the site of Barranco León, dated between 1.02 and 1.73 Ma (millions of years ago) by Electron Spin Resonance (ESR), which, in combination with paleomagnetic and biochronologic data, is estimated to be close to 1.4 Ma. While the range of dates obtained from these various methods overlaps with those published for the Sima del Elefante hominin locality (1.2 Ma), the overwhelming majority of evidence points to an older age. Thus, at the moment, the Barranco León hominin is the oldest from Western Europe.
The study of a small sauropod trackway from the Late Cretaceous Fumanya tracksite (southern Pyrenees, Catalonia) and further comparisons with larger trackways from the same locality suggest a causative relationship between gait, gauge, and body proportions of the respective titanosaur trackmakers. This analysis, conducted in the context of scaling predictions and using geometric similarity and dynamic similarity hypotheses, reveals similar Froude numbers and relative stride lengths for both small and large trackmakers from Fumanya. Evidence for geometric similarity in these trackways suggests that titanosaurs of different sizes moved in a dynamically similar way, probably using an amble gait. The wide gauge condition reported in trackways of small and large titanosaurs implies that they possessed similar body (trunk and limbs) proportions despite large differences in body size. These results strengthen the hypothesis that titanosaurs possessed a distinctive suite of anatomical characteristics that are well reflected in their tracks and trackways.
A comprehensive review and study of the rich dinosaur track record of the Tremp Formation in the southern Pyrenees of Spain (Southwestern Europe) shows a unique succession of footprint localities prior to the end-Cretaceous mass extinction event. A description of some 30 new tracksites and data on sedimentary environments, track occurrence and preservation, ichnology and chronostratigraphy are provided. These new track localities represent various facies types within a diverse set of fluvial environments. The footprint discoveries mostly represent hadrosaurian and, less abundantly, to sauropod dinosaurs. The hadrosaur tracks are significantly smaller in size than, but morphologically similar to, those of North America and Asia and are attributable to the ichnogenus Hadrosauropodus. The track succession, with more than 40 distinct track levels, indicates that hadrosaur footprints in the Ibero-Armorican region occur predominantly in the late Maaastrichtian (at least above the early Maastrichtian-late Maastrichtian boundary). The highest abundance is found noticeably found in the late Maastrichtian, with tracks occurring in the C29r magnetochron, within about the latest 300,000 years of the Cretaceous.
The early Pleistocene colonization of temperate Eurasia by Homo erectus was not only a significant biogeographic event but also a major evolutionary threshold. Dmanisis rich collection of hominin fossils, revealing a population that was small-brained with both primitive and derived skeletal traits, has been dated to the earliest Upper Matuyama chron (ca. 1.77 Ma). Here we present archaeological and geologic evidence that push back Dmanisis first occupations to shortly after 1.85 Ma and document repeated use of the site over the last half of the Olduvai subchron, 1.85-1.78 Ma. These discoveries show that the southern Caucasus was occupied repeatedly before Dmanisis hominin fossil assemblage accumulated, strengthening the probability that this was part of a core area for the colonization of Eurasia. The secure age for Dmanisis first occupations reveals that Eurasia was probably occupied before Homo erectus appears in the East African fossil record.
Oreopithecus bambolii is a Late Miocene hominoid with an extensive fossil record in the Baccinello Basin (Tuscany, Italy), and was the only western European hominoid to survive a major extinction event ca. 9.6 Ma (millions of years ago). Oreopithecus lived in the insular Tusco-Sardinian paleobioprovince, where it evolved many unique anatomical specializations that make it important for understanding the mechanisms and history of Late Miocene hominoid evolution. The eventual extinction of Oreopithecus and its associated fauna ca. 6.5 Ma has generally been attributed to interaction with species that arrived from continental Europe following tectonic collision of the Tusco-Sardinian province with mainland Italy, but palynological, paleontological, and sedimentological records indicate an environmental shift toward more variable climate across the extinction event. To explore the possibility of environmental change as a contributing factor in the extinction of Oreopithecus, we developed a stable carbon and oxygen isotope record from organic matter in paleosols from the Baccinello Basin. These data show very low temporal and spatial variability (indicating plant ecosystem stability through time and space) and provide no evidence for ecologically significant changes in floral composition spanning the extinction event, suggesting that environmental change was not an underlying cause for the extinction of Oreopithecus and its associated fauna. The carbon isotope values fall entirely within the range of isotopic variability for modern plants following the C(3) photosynthetic pathway (trees, shrubs, cool-season grasses), indicating that C(4) vegetation (warm-season grasses) was not an important component of biomass. When corrected for temporal variation in the carbon isotopic composition of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the paleosol carbon isotope values are consistent with predicted values based on modern plants and the Baccinello palynoflora, supporting the reliability of paleosol isotopic records as paleoecological proxies.
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