Diversification and extinction patterns among Neogene perimediterranean mammals

J J Jaeger, J L Hartenberger
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 1989 November 6, 325 (1228): 401-20
The best mammalian fossil record during the Neogene of Western Europe is that of the rodents, the most successful and diversified mammal order. The study of origination and extinction during the Neogene (24-3 Ma BP) in one of the best-documented areas, Spain and southern France, gives an insight into the dynamics of these communities and indicates the possible nature of the driving forces. Three main periods of time show a high rate of origination: the late Burdigalian (17.5 Ma BP), the early Vallesian (11.5-11 Ma BP) and the early Pliocene (4.2-3.8 Ma BP). Two of these high origination-rate periods are immediately followed by important extinction events during which all cohorts are deeply affected (11.5-11 Ma BP and 4.2-3.8 Ma BP). The most important extinction event seems to occur during the early Vallesian (11.5-11 Ma BP), which probably includes the middle/late Miocene boundary. At the Miocene/Pliocene boundary, and during the early Pliocene, the faunal turnover seems to become faster, inducing a strong decrease of the mean species duration. Whereas the main immigration event, which occurs at 17.5 Ma BP, can be related to other faunal migrations in terms of the closure of the Tethys, as it occurs also in eastern Africa and in southwest Asia, the middle/late Miocene boundary event may have been related to a period of ice growth in the Southern Hemisphere. The extinction event that affects the planktonic foraminifera at 12 Ma BP cannot be chronologically correlated to this southwestern European land-mammal extinction event, because the calibration of the marine fossil record during that time-span has to be precise. Some limited terrestrial faunal exchanges that occur during the Messinian between southwestern Europe and northwestern Africa do not deeply affect the general faunal dynamics. Both allochthonous cohorts of immigrants become rapidly extinct. Several endemic rodent faunas, indicating insular conditions, have been reported from the southern edge of the western European continent from the middle Miocene up to the Pliocene. All show low taxonomic diversity, strong endemism and short survival. Some of them, like those of the Gargano Islands during the late Miocene, underwent peculiar morphological changes and also speciation. The large number of rodent genera coevolving in the Gargano Islands is indicative of the large surface areas of these islands. The general geographic pattern of southwestern Europe during the Neogene may therefore correspond to a large continental province including Spain and southern France with some kind of fast-modifying archipelago on its southern rim.

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