Naturwissenschaften

, Volume 97, Issue 3, pp 325–329 | Cite as

The earliest occurrence of the steppe pika (Ochotona pusilla) in Europe near the Pliocene/Pleistocene boundary

SHORT COMMUNICATION

Abstract

The steppe pika (Ochotona pusilla), a representative of the lagomorph family Ochotonidae, is restricted today to Kazakhstan and Russia. This subspecies-rich form belongs to a morphologically distinct, monospecific group of relatively small pikas, inhabiting steppe-like habitat. In the fossil record, it serves as a bioindicator of dry, grassland environment. The steppe pika was abundant and widespread in Europe during the Last Glaciation, and its unquestionable presence has been reported there since the middle Pleistocene. A new discovery of O. pusilla, from the Kielniki 3B locality (Poland), dated to the latest Pliocene, moves back the species appearance in Europe about one million years, almost coeval with its first record from the late Pliocene of Kazakhstan. Presence of such a typical steppe inhabitant as O. pusilla indicates significant climate change towards more arid, continental conditions, which started influencing Europe at 2.6 Ma. We present the first reliable record of the earliest O. pusilla entry deep into Europe in the latest Pliocene.

Keywords

Steppe pika Lagomorpha Ochotona pusilla Villányian Pliocene/Pleistocene 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vertebrate PaleontologyCarnegie Museum of Natural HistoryPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Institute of PaleobiologyPolish Academy of SciencesWarszawaPoland
  3. 3.School of ComputingUniversity of PortsmouthPortsmouthUK

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