Late Miocene flying squirrels from Can Llobateres 1 (Vallès-Penedès Basin, Catalonia): systematics and palaeobiogeography

Abstract

The flying squirrels (Sciuridae, Pteromyini) from the late Miocene (MN9, early Vallesian) site of Can Llobateres 1 (Vallès-Penedès Basin, Catalonia, Spain) are represented by up to five different taxa: Albanensia aff. grimmi, Miopetaurista neogrivensis, Miopetaurista crusafonti, Blackia miocaenica and cf. Pliopetaurista sp. Miopetaurista crusafonti is by far the most abundant flying squirrel, and an emended differential diagnosis for this species is proposed on the basis of the rich collection from Can Llobateres 1. The presence of Blackia miocaenica and cf. Pliopetaurista sp. at this site deserves special attention because these taxa have not been previously reported from Spain during the Vallesian. Despite their extreme rarity in the Vallès-Penedès Basin, evidence indicates greater faunal affinities with the Central European forest faunas than with other regions. Indeed, flying squirrels are not recorded from any other Spanish site during the Vallesian, which supports previous studies which have shown that Catalonia represented a transitional area between Central Europe and the drier and less forested regions of inner Spain. The brief occurrence of B. miocaenica and cf. Pliopetaurista sp. at Can Llobateres 1 might be explained by the short-lasting presence of favourable environments, although the available data do not indicate any major environmental change. Alternatively, we suggest that their presence is likely related to the enormous sampling effort devoted to this site, allowing for the recovery of very rare taxa. Therefore, these flying squirrels would have a longer range in the area but would have very specific ecological requirements, which, in turn, would account for their rarity.

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Acknowledgements

We dedicate this paper to Albert J. van der Meulen in recognition of his contributions to palaeontology but particularly for his help and inspiration. Even though we never worked together, we are indebted to Albert for many discussions that forced us to critically study our data and re-evaluate what we thought we knew. We thank all of the palaeontologists and students who have collaborated in the Can Llobateres field campaigns. We also thank G. Daxner-Höck (Naturhistorisches Museum Wien) for providing pictures and valuable data on the flying squirrel material from Austria and L. W. van den Hoek Ostende (Naturalis, Leiden) and M. A. Álvarez-Sierra (Universidad Complutense, Madrid) for providing copies of some rare references. The comments and corrections by the reviewers of this manuscript (J. Hír and a second anonymous reviewer) as well as by the guest editors (W. Wessels, L. W. van den Hoek Ostende) surely improved our paper. This work has been supported by the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (CGL2011-28681, CGL2011-27343, CGL2014-54373-P and RYC-2013-12470 to ICV) and by the Agència de Gestió d’Ajuts Universitaris i de Recerca of the Generalitat de Catalunya (2014 SGR 416). Paleontological fieldwork at Can Llobateres between the 2010 and 2013 were partly financed by the National Geographic Society (refs. 8750-10, 8910-11, 9316-13) and the Departament de Cultura of the Generalitat de Catalunya (2010/61636, 2012/93333).

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Correspondence to Isaac Casanovas-Vilar.

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This article is a contribution to the special issue “Old worlds, new ideas. A tribute to Albert van der Meulen”.

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Casanovas-Vilar, I., Almécija, S. & Alba, D.M. Late Miocene flying squirrels from Can Llobateres 1 (Vallès-Penedès Basin, Catalonia): systematics and palaeobiogeography. Palaeobio Palaeoenv 95, 353–372 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12549-015-0192-1

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Keywords

  • Sciuridae
  • Pteromyini
  • Rodentia
  • Neogene
  • Vallesian
  • Iberian Peninsula