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Mammals, Vegetation and the Initial Human Settlement of the Mediterranean Islands: A Palaeoecological Approach

Wilhelm Schule
Journal of Biogeography
Vol. 20, No. 4 (Jul., 1993), pp. 399-411
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/2845588
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2845588
Page Count: 13
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Mammals, Vegetation and the Initial Human Settlement of the Mediterranean Islands: A Palaeoecological Approach
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Abstract

Most suggested Quaternary land-bridges to mediterranean islands are geologically impossible. In an attempt to explain the presence of the vearious species, modes and ecological consequences of Quaternary island colonization by large mammals and main in the Mediterranean are discussed from a hypothetical point of view, as are the reasons for the extinction of the Quaternary fauna. Small aboricole mammals may have reached the islands on vegetation-rafts. Some larger mammals, like Myotragus on the Balearic Islands, Prolagus on Sardinia, and possibly endemic deer on the Aegean islands, could be relics of the desiccation of the Mediterranean on the Mio/Pliocene border. Hippos, elephants and giant deer reached the islands by swimming. At the arrival of new species, older endemic species became extinct by ecological competition. Overpopulation consisting of a single or few species with corresponding damages to the vegetation led to dwarfing and a adaptation to hard foods. Because of the lack of carnivores, the genetical fixed behavior patterns for flight and attack are lost in island endemics. During hte Middle (Corso-Sardinia) and Upper Pleistocene, suspected or established (Sardinia, Cyprus, Sicily) invasion of Homo sp. led to the near-complete extinction of the unwary endemic fauna. Some islands (Sicily, corso-Sardinia) were repopulated by swimming ungulates which were extermined by later human invasions. For lack of game, a permanent human settlement was nearly impossible before the Neolithic. All extant wild ungulates on the Mediterranean islands are feral domestic animals, or continental game with intact behavioural patterns introduced for religious or hunting purposes during the Neolithic or later. None of them has Pleistocene ancestors on the islands.

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