| Geographical location of the paleontological site of Melpignano (Lecce, Apulia, Italy).

| Geographical location of the paleontological site of Melpignano (Lecce, Apulia, Italy).

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Cranial remains of juvenile fossil rhinoceroses are rarely described in literature and very few is known about the ontogenetic development of their inner anatomy. In this study, we report the first CT based description of a juvenile braincase and its natural brain endocast of a late Middle Pleistocene Rhinocerotinae from Melpignano (Apulia, Italy)....

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... fossiliferous area of Melpignano (Lecce, Italy 40 • 08 20 N, 18 • 16 23 E) (Figure 1) is located in a region where several quarries are open for the extraction of a Miocene calcarenite, known as Pietra Leccese. Since the Pliocene ( Ciaranfi et al., 1983), the calcarenite was affected by an intense karst activity that formed an articulated fissured network ( Selleri et al., 2003;Selleri, 2007). ...

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... Paranasal sinuses are air-filled chambers that form inside the cranial bones of many vertebrates and are connected to the nasal cavity (Farke 2010;Iurino et al. 2020;Boscaini et al. 2020b). They are typically found within the frontal and sphenoidal bones but, in several mammals, they extend into other cranial bones, forming in some cases large and complex pneumatic systems (Boscaini et al. 2020b). ...
... Considering this, although caution is needed given the paucity of the sample, among Suidae the shape of the brain would appear to be independent from body size and phylogeny. Indeed, paranasal sinuses and even more brain endocasts are related to several morphofunctional and eco-ethological aspects, and therefore are widely investigated for inferring these characteristics in extinct species (Sakai et al. 2011;Vinuesa et al. 2016;Iurino et al. 2020;Pérez-Ramos et al. 2020;Boscaini et al. 2020a). In a recent work (Bhagwandin et al. 2017), the differences in brain morphology of the extant rhinoceros Diceros bicornis (Linnaeus, 1758) and Ceratotherium simum (Burchell, 1817) have been related to diet. ...
... According to the authors, the shape of the brains reflects the overall architecture of the skulls, which in turn is related to the behaviour and feeding habits of the two species, browsing for the black rhinoceros, and grazing for the white rhinoceros (Bhagwandin et al. 2017). More recently, Iurino et al. (2020) using CT analyses, confirmed the morphological differences in the brain endocasts of D. bicornis and C. simum, and documented a similar arrangement of the cranial pneumatisation in both species. Similarly, S. arvernensis and S. scrofa share similar paranasal sinuses and differently shaped brains. ...
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Suidae remains recovered from the late Pliocene site of Collepardo (Latium, central Italy) are described and assigned to Sus arvernensis, a small-sized Ruscinian to Early Villafranchian (MN14-MN16a) species. In Italy, S. arvernensis only occurs in the Triversa Faunal Unit (MN16a), supporting the recently revised chronology of Collepardo. CT-scan methods are used to virtually extract and analyse a newly discovered neurocranium, providing the content for the first inner cranial description carried out on an extinct Suidae. Our analysis reveals that S. arvernensis has an anteroposteriorly elongated and dorsoventrally flat cerebrum, similar to that of the Asian Babyrousa babyrussa and the African Hylochoerus meinertzhageni. These species substantially differ in size and are representatives of two widely diverging phylogenetic clades, excluding relatively simple evolutionary or allometric explanations for brain morphology in Suidae.
... Besides comparing semaphoronts of different taxa, the threedimensional reconstruction of the endocranial spaces of individuals of distinct ontogenetic stages can provide key information on the growth and ontogenetic variation in a non-invasive way (Dumont et al., 2020;Hoffmann et al., 2019;Hu et al., 2020;Hublin et al., 2015;Hurlburt et al., 2013;Iurino et al., 2020;Lautenschlager & Hübner, 2013;Macrini et al., 2007;Petroviĉ et al., 2018;Picasso et al., 2010). Therefore, the study of ontogenetic growth of cranial cavities is not only important for understanding species developmental patterns, but also for identifying age-related bias when applying these methodologies to fossil taxa. ...
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... Formal descriptions and studies of selected material of the MSS fossil collection have been reported in a number of papers: equids (Mecozzi & Strani 2021); rhinocerotids (Petronio & Pandolfi 2008;Pandolfi & Petronio 2011;Iurino et al. 2020); bovids ; suids (Iannucci et al. 2020); hyaenids Vinuesa et al. 2016); canids (Iurino et al. 2013;Sardella et al. 2014;Mecozzi & Bartolini Lucenti 2018;Mecozzi et al. 2020) and mustelids Mecozzi 2021). ...
... In the last decades, several authors carried out morphological and biometric studies on the fossil remains from the "terre rosse" of MSS (Petronio & Pandolfi 2008;Pandolfi & Petronio 2011;Petrucci et al. 2012;Iurino et al. 2013Di Stefano et al. 2015;Vinuesa et al. 2016;Iannucci et al. 2020;Iurino et al. 2020;Mecozzi 2021;Mecozzi & Strani 2021). ...
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The karst fissures known as “ventarole”, located in the Salentine Peninsula (southernmost part of Apulia, Italy), were first studied by Mirigliano in 1941. These fissures are generally filled with reddish sediments or “terre rosse” in the lower part, and with brownish sediments or “terre brune” in the upper one. Both deposits are particularly rich in vertebrate remains. The mammal assemblages collected within the “terre rosse” from Melpignano and San Sidero are chronologically referred to the early Late Pleistocene (MIS 5), whereas those from the “terre brune” are referred to the Late Pleistocene – Early Holocene (MIS 2/1) transition. These ages were estimated from correlation with the similarly reddish and brownish sediments cropping out in Grotta Romanelli and with other Apulian local faunal assemblages. However, no detailed textural or mineralogical characterization has been carried out on the “ventarole” deposits. Moreover, the presence of several species led to hypothesize a persistence of Middle Pleistocene taxa during the Late Pleistocene in Apulia. In addition, the fauna of Melpignano was proposed as a Faunal Unit of the late Aurelian Land Mammal Age. In the last two decades, a team from the Department of Earth Sciences of Sapienza University of Rome have carried out fieldwork in this fossiliferous area. The rich fossil sample recovered is here presented, coupled with a reassessment of the remains collected since the 1900s. The updated faunal lists of Melpignano and San Sidero include several new species here identified for the first time, in particular Dama clactoniana, Equus mosbachensis and Lynx pardinus. New biochronological and paleoenvironmental data for southern Italy are presented, deriving from the analyses of the mammal remains from Melpignano and San Sidero and their comparison with those from other Middle-Late Pleistocene Apulian sites. Finally, textural and mineralogical analyses performed on several “ventarole” samples allow for a better description of the characteristics of the “terre rosse” and “terre brune”.
... The fossiliferous area of Melpignano was finely investigated after the first description provided by Mirigliano (1941) (de Lorentiis 1958Cardini 1962;Bologna et al. 1994). Previously referred to the early Late Pleistocene, the age of the terre rosse has been extended recently to the late Middle Pleistocene (Mecozzi et al. 2019a;Iannucci et al. 2020;Iurino et al. 2020). The badger remains were recovered from the terre rosse of karst cavities from Cava Bianco and Cava Nuzzo (Text- fig. ...
... CT image processing was performed using Mimics 20.0, while the digital restoration process of the missing portions of the skulls was made with ZBrush 4R6. All the missing parts of the specimens were cloned and mirrored from those preserved, and their alignment and positioning were performed following the sagittal plane of the skull Iurino et al., 2020). Finally, the reconstructed portions were highlighted using different colors (Figs. 3 and 10). ...
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A river otter hemimandible has been rediscovered during the revision of the historical collections of G.A. Blanc from Grotta Romanelli, complementing the ongoing multidisciplinary research fieldwork on the site. The specimen, recovered from the level G (“terre rosse”; early Late Pleistocene or late Middle Pleistocene), is here assigned to Lutra lutra . Indeed, morphological and morphometric comparisons with other Quaternary Lutrinae fossils from Europe allow to exclude an attribution to the relatively widespread and older Lutra simplicidens , characterized by distinctive carnassial proportions. Differences with Cyrnaonyx antiqua , which possessed a more robust, shellfish-feeding dentition, support the view of a successful niche repartition between the two species during the late Middle to Late Pleistocene of Europe. The occurrence of Lutra lutra from the “terre rosse” of Grotta Romanelli suggests deep modifications of the landscapes due to the ecological adaptation of the taxon, and indicates that the Eurasian otter spread into Europe at the Middle–Late Pleistocene transition.