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Fossil Sea Cow Remains (Mammalia: Sirenia) on Paving Stones in the City of Girona (Catalonia, Spain)

  • Manja Voss
  • Oliver HampeEmail author
  • Roger Mata Lleonart
  • Jordi Ferrer Lopez
Original Article


Remains of an extinct sea cow are identified on several paving stones in the city of Girona (Catalonia, NE Spain). The limestone slabs are of middle Eocene age, making the fossil one of the oldest representatives of its group in Europe. Based on macroscopic and CT scan data, our study provides first results on the individual age and taxonomic identification of the find. The sea cow remains represent a single specimen. The relative position and degree of wear of the third upper molar indicate a subadult or young adult. Analysis of basicranial sutures and of the third upper molar indicate a young adult. Morphological comparisons focusing on Eocene taxa from Europe that are considered valid and belong to the Dugongidae argue for a closer relationship of the Girona specimen with the genus Prototherium. Given the palaeobiogeographic and stratigraphic distribution of the species available for comparison, the Girona sea cow is tentatively assigned to P. ausetanum. Ongoing post-processing of the CT scans and subsequent 3D reconstruction of the preserved bones are expected to enhance the morphological and taxonomic interpretation and will provide new insights into the evolutionary history and diversity of Eocene sirenians. For this reason, the city of Girona, which already maintains a system of touristic routes for explaining the local geology and palaeontology, will include the scientifically significant site of discovery in its cultural tourism programme. The sea cow remains will be included in the “Inventory of Areas of Geological Interest”, a catalog summarizing the geological history of Catalonia.


Urban fossils Sirenia Eocene Morphology Taxonomy Geotourism 



We are grateful for the support of Christian Kammerer (Raleigh, NC), who was significantly involved in the information sharing and identification of the urban fossil find. We thank the mayoralty of Girona for allowing us to remove the paving slabs for closer inspection and the quarry owner (kept anonymous) from Sant Vicenç for providing access to the limestones quarry. Joan Carles Vilanova (Clínica Girona) is acknowledged for supporting the CT scanning of the plates and Kristin Mahlow (Berlin) for her help in the post-processing of the CT scans.

The artwork of Figure 4a, b was prepared by Bonnie Miljour and was kindly provided by Philip D. Gingerich (both Ann Arbor, MI). Funding of this study was received by the “innovation fonds” of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin. Finally, we would like to express our cordial thanks to an anonymous reviewer, and the Editor-in-Chief, Kevin Page (Plymouth) for their valuable comments and helpful suggestions.


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Copyright information

© The European Association for Conservation of the Geological Heritage 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und BiodiversitätsforschungBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Axial Geologia i Medi Ambient, S.L.Caldes de MalavellaSpain
  3. 3.Lithos GeotècniaSaltSpain

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