The bovid Tethytragus also in the Vallès-Penedès

05 Nov 2012
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 Tethytragus reconstruction by paleoillustrator Mauricio Antón.

Tethytragus reconstruction by paleoillustrator Mauricio Antón.

ICP researchers document the first remains of the Miocene bovid Tethytragus from the paleontological site Abocador de Can Mata (els Hostalets of Pierola, Barcelona) in the Vallès-Penedès Basin. This finding supports the hypothesis of a faunal exchange between the central basins of the Iberian Peninsula and the Vallès-Penedès basin through the area of Calatayud-Daroca (Zaragoza). The work has been published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The excavations carried out for over 10 years in the Abocador Can Mata (els Hostalets of Pierola, Barcelona) have resulted in more than 200 locations of fossil vertebrates from the Middle Miocene, between 12.5 and 11.5 million years ago. Highlights of the paleontological discoveries in the ​​Vallès-Penedès area include some of the oldest hominid fossils in Europe, but there are also tens of species of mammals and other groups that have been identified. This work led by the ICP researcher Daniel DeMiguel documents the discovery of the fossil remains of Tethytragus, a bovid species hitherto unknown in the Vallès-Penedès Basin.

Tethytragus is a Middle Miocene bovid described in 1994 by paleontologists Beatriz Azanza and Jorge Morales from the fossil remains found in Arroyo de Val-Barranca (Zaragoza) and in other paleontological sites of the Calatayud-Daroca Basin. Later, it was also found in deposits of the Madrid Basin and, outside the peninsula, remains of this bovid are known in Turkey, France and Germany. The finding of the Tethytragus mandible found in the Vallès-Penedès Basin widens the geographical distribution of this genus, sheds new light on its systematics, and allows to propose some hypotheses on its migrations through Europe.

Basins with documented presence of Tethytragus.

Basins with documented presence of Tethytragus.

The presence of Tethytragus in the Vallès-Penedès basin can be explained by two possible migrations, as detailed in the article published in the latest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. On one hand, this bovid could have reached this basin from France, then extended to the interior basins of the Iberian Peninsula.

However, Tethytragus could also have reached the Vallès-Penedès from inside the Peninsula, specifically through the Calatayud-Daroca neighboring basin. This second scenario is favored by recent studies showing that the area Daroca suffered a local climate change some 12 million years ago that increased the humidity and the forest type vegetation, making it more similar (environmental homogenization) to the Vallès-Penedès, and thus promoting the exchange of faunas between the two basins. Previous studies had already documented the migration of some species of Cricetidae and ursids from the Vallès-Penedès to the Calatayud-Daroca Basin. Thus, Tethytragus could be the first evidence of a migration in the other direction.

Tethytragus remains from the Abocador de Can Mata

The fossils recovered from the paleontological site Abocador de Can Mata comprise a hemimandible with a complete dental series –including incisors.

Through a detailed observation of the mandible teeth, the piece has been assigned to Tethytragus, more specifically the teeth look very similar to those of the T. langai species, found in other basins of inner Spain.

Fossil hemimandible and drawing showing the main characteristics of Tethytragus.

Fossil hemimandible and drawing showing the main characteristics of Tethytragus. Image by Daniel DeMiguel and drawing by Marta Palmero. ICP

Looking at the previous figure, the hemimandible shows elongated and narrow premolars, and molars with flat lingual wall and quite high dental crowns (mesodonts). Other characteristics of Tethytragus are that the lingual cusps of the three lower molars are aligned and lacking some structures like the ectostylid and the metastylid.

+ info DeMiguel, D., Sánchez, I.M., Alba, D.M., Galindo, J., Robles, J.M., & Moyà-Solà, S (2012). First evidence of Tethytragus Azanza and Morales, 1994 (Ruminantia, Bovidae) in the Miocene of the Vallès-Penedès Basin (Spain). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 32(6): 1457-1462.


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