Journal of Mammalian Evolution

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 95–110 | Cite as

Re-Defining Canis etruscus (Canidae, Mammalia): A New Look into the Evolutionary History of Early Pleistocene Dogs Resulting from the Outstanding Fossil Record from Pantalla (Italy)

  • Marco CherinEmail author
  • Davide F. Bertè
  • Lorenzo Rook
  • Raffaele Sardella
Original Paper


An outstanding sample of Canis etruscus has been found within the faunal assemblage from the early Pleistocene site of Pantalla (Italy), which is referred to the early late Villafranchian. Canis etruscus appeared in Europe about 2 Ma ago. It is regarded as an important taxon for biochronology, as its first occurrence (the “wolf event”) has been used to define one of the Villafranchian faunal turnovers. The discovery of four crania from Pantalla prompted a revision of C. etruscus, in order to better describe its cranial morphology. Since early studies, the distinction between C. etruscus and the coeval C. arnensis has been based mainly on mandibular traits. For this reason, our study is aimed at highlighting differences in craniodental characters between the two species. Canis arnensis has been conventionally considered a jackal-like dog, while C. etruscus is regarded as a wolf-like dog. Consequently, we decided to use jackals for comparison, in addition to C. lupus. Although the jackal group has been traditionally considered as quite homogenous (different species are partially sympatric and similar in both size and ecology), recent genetic studies demonstrate that jackals are not monophyletic. Considering the model offered by extant species, our goal is to delineate the degree of intra- and interspecific variability among the basal forms of the genus Canis.


Canis etruscus Canidae Early Pleistocene Late Villafranchian Pantalla Italy 



We are indebted to M.C. De Angelis (SBAU), who entrusted the senior author with the study of the mammal collection from Pantalla. We are grateful to E. Cioppi (IGF), G. Csorba and M. Gasparik (HNHM), A. Faveri (ISPRA), G. Doria (MSNG), G. Bardelli (MSNM), R. Zorzin and A. Vaccari (MSNV), L. Boitani and A. Vigna Taglianti (DZR), M. Rustioni (MPM), and all the staff of the “Palazzone” (SBAU), for access to museum collections and for their excellent technical support.

Part of the comparative analyses for this study were carried out thanks to the support from the SYNTHESYS Project, which is financed by European Community Research Infrastructure Action under the FP7 “Capacities” Program (project number: HU-TAF-2306 for MC; AT-TAF-5028 and HU-TAF-707 for RS), from the Sapienza Ricerche Universitarie 2011 grant (DFB and RS), and from Fondi di Ateneo 2010 and 2011 grants of Florence University (LR).

Supplementary material

10914_2013_9227_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (117 kb)
Appendix 1 Cranial measurements (mm) of selected fossil (C. etruscus and C. arnensis) and living (C. mesomelas, C. aureus, C. lupaster, and C. lupus) Caninae species. (PDF 117 kb)
10914_2013_9227_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (119 kb)
Appendix 2 Upper tooth measurements (mm) of selected fossil (C. etruscus and C. arnensis) and living (C. mesomelas, C. aureus, C. lupaster, and C. lupus) Caninae species. (PDF 119 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marco Cherin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Davide F. Bertè
    • 2
  • Lorenzo Rook
    • 3
  • Raffaele Sardella
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze della TerraPerugia UniversityPerugiaItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Scienze della TerraSapienza University of RomeRomeItaly
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Scienze della TerraFlorence UniversityFlorenceItaly
  4. 4.IsIPU, Istituto Italiano di Paleontologia UmanaRomeItaly

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