Biological Invasions

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 717–722 | Cite as

Radiocarbon evidence for a prehistoric deliberate translocation: the weasel (Mustela nivalis) of Mallorca

  • Alejandro Valenzuela
  • Josep Antoni Alcover
Invasion Note


We present radiocarbon evidence for the presence of the weasel (Mustela nivalis) on Mallorca prior to the Roman colonization of the Balearics. Bone collagen from a single specimen recovered at Cova del Ninot, Mallorca rendered two radiocarbon ages, independently obtained at two laboratories (2σ interval: 386–206 cal BC). These dates indicate that the translocation of the weasel to Mallorca occurred in Late Prehistory. The inhabitants of Mallorca at that time were the Talaiotic people (Iron Age settlers of the Balearics). The weasel appears to have been introduced by Talaiotic mercenaries returning to the island on Carthaginian ships. This is the first documented case of the translocation of a wild carnivorous mammal to the Gymnesic Islands (i.e., Mallorca and Menorca) in prehistoric times. Some ecological consequences of this invasion are outlined.


Mustela nivalis Mustelidae Mallorca Western Mediterranean Faunal translocation 



This paper is included in the Research Project CGL2010-17889 of the Dirección General de Investigación, Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología (Madrid). We acknowledge the help of Dr. Christopher Bronk Ramsey and Dr. Thomas Higham (Oxford) as well as Mr. Mathieu Boudin and Dr. Mark van Strydonck (Brussels) who provided valuable supplementary information on different radiocarbon ages. We also thank Maria Soledad Gogorza for her assistance with the manuscript review. Hannah Bonner revised the English text. One of the authors (A.V.) has a JAE-Predoc fellowship from the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas of the Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia of Spain.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departament de Biodiversitat i ConservacióInstitut Mediterrani d’Estudis Avançats (IMEDEA-CSIC)EsporlesMallorca
  2. 2.Division of Vertebrate Zoology/MammalogyAmerican Museum of Natural HistoryNew YorkUSA

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