Gargano - Gargano Peninsula Fossils - The Mikrotia Fauna

The Mikrotia Fauna

The Gargano Island endemic mammals included:

  • Deinogalerix - 5 species of gymnures ("hairy hedgehogs"), among them the giant D. koenigswaldi with a skull of c.20 cm length.(Freudenthal, 1972; Butler, 1980)
  • Hoplitomeryx - some 5 species of "prongdeer" with five horns and sabre-like upper canine teeth. They ranged from tiny to the size of a red deer, and large and small ones apparently occurred at the same time rather than one evolving from the other.(Leinders 1984, van der Geer 2005, van der Geer 2008)
  • Mikrotia - 3 or more species of murine rodent. The largest species, M. magna, had a skull 10 cm long.(Freudenthal, 1976, Parra et al., 1999)
  • Paralutra garganensis - an endemic species of otter. (Willemsen, 1983)
  • Prolagus imperialis and P. apricenicus - huge endemic pika species- P. imperialis was larger than any other known Prolagus.(Mazza, 1987)
  • Stertomys - 5 species of dormouse, among them the giant S. laticrestatus (Daams and Freudenthal, 1985) and four smaller species (Freudenthal and Martín-Suárez, 2006)
  • Hattomys - 3 species of giant hamsters, among them the giant H. gargantua. (Freudenthal, 1985)

Non-endemic mammals found on the island included:

  • Apodemus gorafensis - a field mouse
  • A prehistoric species of Cricetus hamster (Freudenthal, 1985)
  • Megacricetodon - another hamster (Freudenthal, 1985)

Bird species occurring at Gargano included (studied by Ballmann, 1973, 1976):

  • Apus wetmorei, a swift.
  • Columba omnisanctorum - one of the oldest pigeon fossils known. It probably was more widespread and if so, the older name C. pisana would likely apply to it.
  • Garganoaetus freudenthali and Garganoaetus murivorus - two species of falconid, the former larger than a Golden Eagle, the latter well-sized; endemic. The smaller species, which likely is the stratigraphically oldest, is closely related to Aquila delphinensis from La Grive-Saint-Alban, France, according to Peter Ballmann in 1973. Its closest living relatives are the small eagles (Hieraaetus, Spizaetus, Lophaetus).
  • "Strix" perpasta - a true owl, perhaps the same as the widespread Bubo zeylonensis lamarmorae, a paleosubspecies of the Brown Fish-owl (Mlíkovský 2002) but this taxon was usually known from later times.
  • Tyto - 2 or 3 species of barn-owls. The largest, T. gigantea, was up to twice as massive as the living eagle-owl Bubo bubo. T. robusta was also large; this species and the former were endemic but actually seem to have been chronosubspecies. The supposed remains of the smaller T. sanctialbani found at Gargano are now placed in the widespread Tyto balearica.
  • an indeterminate woodpecker.

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