Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont
Recent publications
Compared to other continents, the study of indigenous (non-western) knowledge of palaeontology in Africa is a relatively new field. The literature reviewed here nevertheless suggests a long-lasting string of traditions, geomyths and folklore related to fossilised items on the whole continent and encompassing many African cultures. It is often difficult to estimate the antiquity of these traditions, but the evidence gathered here suggests that they range from the 1800s to pre-colonial times, and up to many millennia. Palaeontological items were collected and used for a variety of reasons, but the African record seems unusual for its scarce use of fossils for traditional medicine. Also, despite substantial efforts, some famous localities with conspicuous fossils still remain without any documented indigenous knowledge. We stress that documenting fossil-related folklore and geomyths is not only a matter of preserving this knowledge or promoting diversity, but is also crucial for establishing strong bonds with local stakeholders to encourage preservation of geoheritage and discover new sites.
Recently, the evolutionary history of the Caribbean mangroves has been reconsidered using partial palynological databases organized by the time intervals of interest, namely Late Cretaceous to Eocene for the origin, the Eocene-Oligocene transition for major turnover and Neogene to Quaternary for diversification. These discussions have been published in a set of sequential papers, but the raw information remains unknown. This paper reviews all the information available and provides the first comprehensive and updated compilation of the abovementioned partial databases. This compilation is called CARMA-F (CARibbean MAngroves-Fossil) and includes nearly 90 localities from the present and past Caribbean coasts, ranging from the Late Cretaceous to the Pliocene. Details on the Quaternary localities (CARMA-Q) will be published later. CARMA-F lists and illustrates the fossil pollen from past mangrove taxa and their extant representatives, and includes a map of the studied localities and a conventional spreadsheet with the raw data. The compilation is the most complete available for the study of the origin, evolution and diversification of Caribbean mangroves, and is open to modifications for adapting it to the particular interests of each researcher.
The near‐global distribution of hadrosaurid dinosaurs during the Cretaceous has been attributed to mastication, a behaviour commonly recognized as a mammalian adaptation. Its occurrence in a non‐mammalian lineage should be accompanied by the evolution of several morphological modifications associated with food acquisition and processing. This study investigated morphological variation in the dentary, a major element of the hadrosauroid lower jaw. Eighty‐four hadrosauroid dentaries were subjected to geometric morphometric and statistical analyses to investigate their taxonomic, ontogenetic, and individual variation. Results suggest increased food acquisition and processing efficiency in saurolophids through a complex pattern of evolutionary and growth‐related changes. The edentulous region grew longer relative to dentary length, allowing for food acquisition specialization anteriorly and processing posteriorly, and became ventrally directed, possibly associated with foraging low‐growing vegetation, especially in younger individuals. The saurolophid coronoid process became anteriorly directed and relatively more elongate, with an expanded apex, increasing moment arm length, with muscles pulling the jaw more posteriorly, increasing mechanical advantage. During growth, all hadrosauroids underwent anteroposterior dental battery elongation by the addition of teeth, and edentulous region ventralization decreased. The dental battery became deeper in saurolophids by increasing the number of teeth per tooth family. The increased coronoid process anterior inclination and relative edentulous region elongation in saurolophids are hypothesized to have evolved through hypermorphosis and/or acceleration, peramorphic heterochronic processes; the development of an anteroposteriorly shorter but dorsoventrally taller saurolophid dentary, is probably due to post‐displacement in dental battery elongation and edentulous region decreased ventral orientation, a paedomorphic heterochronic process.
The Ribota site (Ágreda, Soria, Spain) is a new locality in the Matute Formation (Tithonian–Berriasian) composed of several carbonate layers, outstandingly rich in macrovertebrate remains. Fossils show an unusual replacement of the original bioapatite by quartz, and are found as positive reliefs protruding from lacustrine limestone beds. This type of conservation has allowed the identification of around one hundred vertebrate bone accumulations in an outcrop of more than 10 hectares. Osteichthyans (articulated partial skeletons, cranial material, and isolated postcranial bones and scales), crocodylomorphs (disarticulated cranial material, isolated teeth, vertebrae and osteoderms), turtles (partial carapaces and plastra, but also isolated plates) and pterosaurs (cranial and appendicular elements) have been identified. Around 80 specimens have been collected and a preliminary study of part of the collection (35 specimens) has allowed the identification of at least 5 different taxa: Halecomorphi indet., Neoginglymodi indet., Goniopholididae indet., Testudinata indet., and Pterodactyloidea indet. This new site represents one of the few sites from this time interval preserved in a fully lacustrine environment, so these vertebrate assemblages are unique and composed of different animals that presumably lived around and within the lake. They are dominated by aquatic and amphibian vertebrates and was formed by attrition in this lacustrine environment, possibly far from the lake shoreline. These macrovertebrate assemblages provide new data about the diversity in the faunal ecosystems from the Jurassic/Cretaceous transition of the Iberian Basin Rift System.
This paper presents the first continuous (gap-free) Late Glacial-Early Holocene (LGEH) pollen record for the Iberian Pyrenees resolved at centennial resolution. The main aims are (i) to provide a standard chronostratigraphic correlation framework, (ii) to unravel the relationships between vegetation shifts, climatic changes and fire, and (iii) to obtain a regional picture of LGEH vegetation for the Pyrenees and the surrounding lowlands. Seven pollen assemblage zones were obtained and correlated with the stadial/interstadial phases of the Greenland ice cores that serve as a global reference. Several well-dated datums were also derived for keystone individual taxa that are useful for correlation purposes. Four vegetation types were identified, two of them corresponding to conifer and deciduous forests (Cf, Df) and two representing open vegetation types (O1, O2) with no modern analogs, dominated by Artemisia-Poaceae and Saxifraga-Cichorioideae, respectively. Forests dominated during interstadial phases (Bølling/Allerød and Early Holocene), whereas O1 dominated during stadials (Oldest Dryas and Younger Dryas), with O2 being important only in the first half of the Younger Dryas. The use of pollen-independent proxies for temperature and moisture allowed the reconstruction of paleoclimatic trends and the responses of the four vegetation types defined. The most relevant observation in this sense was the finding of wet climates during the Younger Dryas, which challenges the traditional view of arid conditions for this phase on the basis of former pollen records. Fire incidence was low until the Early Holocene, when regional fires were exacerbated, probably due to the combination of higher temperatures and forest biomass accumulation. These results are compared with the pollen records available for the whole Pyrenean range and the surrounding lowlands within the framework of elevational, climatic and biogeographical gradients. Some potential future developments are suggested on the basis of the obtained results, with an emphasis on the reconsideration of the LGEH spatiotemporal moisture patterns and the comparison of the Pyrenees with other European ranges from different climatic and biogeographical regions.
Pierolapithecus catalaunicus (~12 million years ago, northeastern Spain) is key to understanding the mosaic nature of hominid (great ape and human) evolution. Notably, its skeleton indicates that an orthograde (upright) body plan preceded suspensory adaptations in hominid evolution. However, there is ongoing debate about this species, partly because the sole known cranium, preserving a nearly complete face, suffers from taphonomic damage. We 1) carried out a micro computerized tomography (CT) based virtual reconstruction of the Pierolapithecus cranium, 2) assessed its morphological affinities using a series of two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) morphometric analyses, and 3) modeled the evolution of key aspects of ape face form. The reconstruction clarifies many aspects of the facial morphology of Pierolapithecus. Our results indicate that it is most similar to great apes (fossil and extant) in overall face shape and size and is morphologically distinct from other Middle Miocene apes. Crown great apes can be distinguished from other taxa in several facial metrics (e.g., low midfacial prognathism, relatively tall faces) and only some of these features are found in Pierolapithecus, which is most consistent with a stem (basal) hominid position. The inferred morphology at all ancestral nodes within the hominoid (ape and human) tree is closer to great apes than to hylobatids (gibbons and siamangs), which are convergent with other smaller anthropoids. Our analyses support a hominid ancestor that was distinct from all extant and fossil hominids in overall facial shape and shared many features with Pierolapithecus. This reconstructed ancestral morphotype represents a testable hypothesis that can be reevaluated as new fossils are discovered.
Hispanopithecus laietanus from the Late Miocene (9.8 Ma) of Can Llobateres 1 (CLL1; Vall es-Pened es Basin, NE Iberian Peninsula) represents one of the latest occurrences of fossil apes in Western mainland Europe, where they are last recorded at~9.5 Ma. The paleoenvironment of CLL1 is thus relevant for understanding the extinction of European hominoids. To refine paleoenvironmental inferences for CLL1, we apply ecometric models based on functional crown type (FCT) variablesda scoring scheme devised to capture macroscopic functional traits of occlusal shape and wear surfaces of herbivorous large mammal molars. Paleotemperature and paleoprecipitation estimates for CLL1 are provided based on published regional regression models linking average FCT of large herbivorous mammal communities to climatic conditions. A mapping to Whittaker's present-day biome classification is also attempted based on these estimates, as well as a case-based reasoning via canonical variate analysis of FCT variables from five relevant biomes. Estimates of mean annual temperature (25 C) and mean annual precipitation (881 mm) classify CLL1 as a tropical seasonal forest/savanna, only in partial agreement with the canonical variate analysis results, which classify CLL1 as a tropical rainforest with a higher probability. The former biome agrees better with previous inferences derived from fossil plants and mammals, as well as preliminary isotopic data. The misclassification of CLL1 as a tropical forest is attributed to the mixture of forest-adapted taxa with others adapted to more open environments, given that faunal and plant composition indicates the presence of a dense wetland/riparian forest with more open woodlands nearby. The tested FCT ecometric approaches do not provide unambiguous biome classification for CLL1. Nevertheless, our results are consistent with those from other approaches, thus suggesting that FCT variables are potentially useful to investigate paleoenvironmental changes through time and space-dincluding those that led to the extinction of European Miocene apes.
An in-depth study of the Early Pleistocene European remains of Hippopotamus has allowed the first detailed description of the incidence and types of dental alterations related to palaeopathologies and potentially linked to climatic and environmental factors. The results of a long-term qualitative and quantitative assessment highlight the importance of nutrient deficiencies on the development of dental enamel hypoplasia in Hippopotamus. Glacial cyclicity and the resulting changes in humidity and plant community structure conditioned the local environments critical for the survival of this taxon. Two main intervals of putative constrained nutritionally restrictions were detected at ca. 1.8 Ma and ca. 0.86 Ma (i.e., MIS63 and MIS21, respectively). Statistical comparisons show an increase in the frequency of dental hypoplasia between these two chronological periods, thus reinforcing the idea of increased seasonality in the circum-Mediterranean environments during the Early Pleistocene.
After successfully diversifying during the Paleocene, the descendants of the first wave of mammals that survived the end-Cretaceous mass extinction waned throughout the Eocene. Competition with modern crown clades and intense climate fluctuations may have been part of the factors leading to the extinction of these archaic groups. Why these taxa went extinct has rarely been studied from the perspective of the nervous system. Here, we describe the first virtual endocasts for the archaic order Tillodontia. Three species from the middle Eocene of North America were analyzed: Trogosus hillsii, Trogosus grangeri, and Trogosus castoridens. We made morphological comparisons with the plaster endocast of another tillodont, Tillodon fodiens, as well as groups potentially related to Tillodontia: Pantodonta, Arctocyonidae, and Cimolesta. Trogosus shows very little inter-specific variation with the only potential difference being related to the fusion of the optic canal and sphenorbital fissure. Many ancestral features are displayed by Trogosus, including an exposed midbrain, small neocortex, orbitotemporal canal ventral to rhinal fissure, and a broad circular fissure. Potential characteristics that could unite Tillodontia with Pantodonta, and Arctocyonidae are the posterior position of cranial nerve V3 exit in relation to the cerebrum and the low degree of development of the subarcuate fossa. The presence of large olfactory bulbs and a relatively small neocortex are consistent with a terrestrial lifestyle. A relatively small neocortex may have put Trogosus at risk when competing with artiodactyls for potentially similar resources and avoiding predation from archaic carnivorans, both of which are known to have had larger relative brain and neocortex sizes in the Eocene. These factors may have possibly exacerbated the extinction of Tillodontia, which showed highly specialized morphologies despite the increase in climate fluctuations throughout the Eocene, before disappearing during the middle Eocene.
The Catalan locality of Can Llobateres 1 (early Vallesian, MN9) shows a remarkably rich diversity just prior to the mid-Vallesian crisis, including 23 species of Carnivora. Similarity maps using the Raup-Crick index and covering the Middle to Late Miocene (16–5.3 Ma) show that the origin of this carnivoran chronofauna lies to the north of the Iberian Peninsula, gradually making its way south. The chronofauna built up through migrations during the Aragonian, but shows a major influx during the early Vallesian, leading to a biodiversity hotspot. At the end of MN9, the mid-Vallesian turnover, the chronofauna collapses. This is mainly because of the extinction of parts of the fauna, and the retraction of some species to the north, disappearing from Spain. Thus, the rich fauna is an amalgamation of persisting older elements, northern elements having a brief temporary presence and new elements coming in. All these were supported by the unique rich ecosystem of the Vallès-Penedès Basin during the early Vallesian.
Western Eurasian Neogene tapirids are an intriguing but poorly known and documented group of mammals. Being mainly represented by scanty and fragmented remains, the Western Eurasian Tapiridae are debated from a systematic point of view. Here, we describe the exquisite tapirid material from the late Pliocene locality of Camp dels Ninots, North-East Iberia, providing new consideration on the taxonomy, morphological and morphometric variability, and phylogeny of fossil species. The studied material is presented by five crania of different ages, shedding new insight onto the ontogenetic patterns in fossil European tapirs and their variability. The adult specimens from CN are morphologically similar to other latest Pliocene tapirs from Vialette (France) and Villafranca d’Asti (Italy), and are referred here to the species Tapirus arvernensis. Further, the differences detected among the animals of different ages, shed light on the variability of some features and help to reconsider the validity of some fossil species. A cladistic analysis of fossil Tapiridae performed here, suggests the T. arvernensis is closely related with T. indicus, and probably is an Asian immigrant. Other latest Miocene fossil species, Tapiriscus balkanicus and Ta. pannonicus, result as sister taxa and probably represent endemic species of Europe that were replaced by T. arvernensis.
The morphological adaptations of euprimates have been linked to their origin and early evolution in an arboreal environment. However, the ancestral and early locomotor repertoire of this group remains contentious. Although some tarsal bones like the astragalus and the calcaneus have been thoroughly studied, the navicular remains poorly studied despite its potential implications for foot mobility. Here, we evaluate early euprimate locomotion by assessing the shape of the navicular—an important component of the midtarsal region of the foot—using three-dimensional geometric morphometrics in relation to quantified locomotor repertoire in a wide data set of extant primates. We also reconstruct the locomotor repertoire of representatives of the major early primate lineages with a novel phylogenetically informed discriminant analysis and characterize the changes that occurred in the navicular during the archaic primate–euprimate transition. To do so, we included in our study an extensive sample of naviculars (36 specimens) belonging to different species of adapiforms, omomyiforms, and plesiadapiforms. Our results indicate that navicular shape embeds a strong functional signal, allowing us to infer the type of locomotion of extinct primates. We demonstrate that early euprimates displayed a diverse locomotor behavior, although they did not reach the level of specialization of some living forms. Finally, we show that the navicular bone experienced substantial reorganization throughout the archaic primate–euprimate transition, supporting the major functional role of the tarsus during early primate evolution. This study demonstrates that navicular shape can be used as a reliable proxy for primate locomotor behavior. In addition, it sheds light on the diverse locomotor behavior of early primates as well as on the archaic primate–euprimate transition, which involved profound morphological changes within the tarsus, including the navicular bone.
The Island Syndrome describes morphological, behavioral, and life history traits that evolve in parallel in endemic insular organisms. A basic axiom of the Island Syndrome is that insular endemics slow down their pace of life. Although this is already confirmed for insular dwarfs, a slow life history in giants may not be adaptive, but merely a consequence of increasing body size. We tested this question in the fossil insular giant leporid Nuralagus rex. Using bone histology, we constructed both a continental extant taxon model derived from experimentally fluorochrome-labelled Lepus europaeus to calibrate life history events, and a growth model for the insular taxon. N. rex grew extremely slowly and delayed maturity well beyond predictions from continental phylogenetically corrected scaling models. Our results support the life history axiom of the Island Syndrome as generality for insular mammals, regardless of whether they have evolved into dwarfs or giants.
The taxonomy of the soft-shell turtle Rafetus bohemicus (Liebus, 1930), family Triony-chidae, subfamily Trionychinae, is revised based on new and previously mentioned material (including the type material) from the Early Miocene (Burdigalian, MN 3) sites of the Most Basin, Czechia. Given that the diagnosis was so far based only on plastral elements, here we focused on the cranial material and combined our study with previously published data on postcranial elements. 3D models of the skulls derived from CT scans allow us to provide the first complete skull description of R. bohemicus, including several new cranial diagnostic characters of the species. Our results not only enable the distinction of the trionychid genera Trionyx and Rafetus, both recorded from Central Europe during the Early Miocene, but further allow us to provide an emended diagnosis for R. bohemicus. We confirm the conclusions of a previous study according to which Trionyx pontanus, T. preschenensis, T. aspidiformis, and T. elongatus are nomina dubia. R. bohemicus from Břešt'any (MN 3) represents the oldest record of this genus in Europe as well as the oldest occurrence of the genus.
Archaic admixture has had a substantial impact on human evolution with multiple events across different clades, including from extinct hominins such as Neanderthals and Denisovans into modern humans. In great apes, archaic admixture has been identified in chimpanzees and bonobos but the possibility of such events has not been explored in other species. Here, we address this question using high-coverage whole-genome sequences from all four extant gorilla subspecies, including six newly sequenced eastern gorillas from previously unsampled geographic regions. Using approximate Bayesian computation with neural networks to model the demographic history of gorillas, we find a signature of admixture from an archaic ‘ghost’ lineage into the common ancestor of eastern gorillas but not western gorillas. We infer that up to 3% of the genome of these individuals is introgressed from an archaic lineage that diverged more than 3 million years ago from the common ancestor of all extant gorillas. This introgression event took place before the split of mountain and eastern lowland gorillas, probably more than 40 thousand years ago and may have influenced perception of bitter taste in eastern gorillas. When comparing the introgression landscapes of gorillas, humans and bonobos, we find a consistent depletion of introgressed fragments on the X chromosome across these species. However, depletion in protein-coding content is not detectable in eastern gorillas, possibly as a consequence of stronger genetic drift in this species.
Here, we describe and revise craniodental material from Langebaanweg ‘E’ Quarry (South Africa, early Pliocene, ∼5.2 Ma), which represents one of the largest and best-preserved collections of sabertooth felids from Mio-Pliocene deposits of Africa. Four taxa, including two new species, are recognized: Lokotunjailurus chinsamyae sp. nov., Adeilosmilus aff. kabir, Yoshi obscura, and Dinofelis werdelini sp. nov. The felid guild composition analyzed herein suggests the presence of a mosaic environment with open components in the region, and shows a potential relationship with that of Yuanmou, suggesting a similar environment and/or dispersal route/event. The reassessment of the rich early Pliocene felids from Langebaanweg is a step toward understanding the transition and evolution of the felids in the southern hemisphere during the late Miocene to early Pliocene.
Moradisaurine captorhinid eureptiles are one of the best‐known groups of Permian herbivorous tetrapods. Moradisaurines, with several rows of teeth on the maxillae and jaws, first appeared in the Cisuralian and went extinct at the end of the Lopingian; they were especially abundant in the equatorial latitudes of Pangaea. However, the postcranial skeleton of this clade is relatively poorly known, given that most of the species described have been based on skulls. This fact has precluded a detailed correlation with coeval tracks. The present work describes a new moradisaurine genus and species, Tramuntanasaurus tiai , based on an almost complete, semi‐articulated skeleton from the Port des Canonge Formation of Mallorca (Balearic Islands, western Mediterranean), identifying it as the trackmaker of the co‐occurring small‐sized traces of the ichnogenus Hyloidichnus . Apart from documenting the new moradisaurine species, the results presented herein strongly support the hypothesis that Hyloidichnus was produced by both non‐moradisaurine captorhinids and moradisaurines; those of small to medium size, at least, had a very conserved autopodial morphology and gait. Therefore, this study provides new data to infer the trackmakers of Hyloidichnus where bone remains are missing, and thus contributes to our understanding of Permian tetrapod ichnofaunas and tetrapod communities.
The ongoing degradation of natural systems and other environmental changes has put our society at a crossroad with respect to our future relationship with our planet. While the concept of One Health describes how human health is inextricably linked with environmental health, many of these complex interdependencies are still not well-understood. Here, we describe how the advent of real-time genomic analyses can benefit One Health and how it can enable timely, in-depth ecosystem health assessments. We introduce nanopore sequencing as the only disruptive technology that currently allows for real-time genomic analyses and that is already being used worldwide to improve the accessibility and versatility of genomic sequencing. We showcase real-time genomic studies on zoonotic disease, food security, environmental microbiome, emerging pathogens, and their antimicrobial resistances, and on environmental health itself - from genomic resource creation for wildlife conservation to the monitoring of biodiversity, invasive species, and wildlife trafficking. We stress why equitable access to real-time genomics in the context of One Health will be paramount and discuss related practical, legal, and ethical limitations.
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51 members
Josep Marmi
  • Mesozoic Faunas
Àngel Hernández Luján
  • Area Neogene and Quaternary Faunas
Isaac Casanovas-Vilar
  • Area Neogene and Quaternary Faunas
David M. Alba
  • Area Neogene and Quaternary Faunas
Edifici ICTA-ICP. C/ Columnes, s/n. Campus UAB, 08193, Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
Head of institution
David M. Alba