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Digging for data: the rise and fall of a Miocene mammal biodiversity hotspot in the Vallès-Penedès (Catalonia, Spain)

The Vallesian, 11.1-9 Ma, was a special time in the Vallès-Penedes basin near Barcelona, where a biodiversity hotspot existed. Europe had a subtropical climate, with rhinos, forest giraffes, lions, hyenas, flying squirrels and primates.

P.A. Madern
16 november 2023
Thesis in Leiden Repository

Around 9.7 million years ago there was an abrupt collapse in diversity; the so-called 'Vallesian Crisis'. This was seen as the transition point to a climate with more seasonality and open landscapes.Using a fossil dataset from Miocene Eurasia, the influence of dataset quality on the severity of this crisis, which animals were most affected and their distribution patterns was studied.The crisis’ victims have three things in common: they are mainly forest dwellers, they date back to the Middle Miocene (16-11.1 Ma), and they are rare during the early Vallesian. The high Vallesian biodiversity was caused by the arrival of new immigrants in addition to older transient groups, possibly due to the unique coastal conditions.Major differences existed between the coastal region and the interior of the Iberian Peninsula. Some species appeared in the Vallès-Penedès, but never reached the inland. The 'Vallesian Crisis', while seen understandably as a time of abrupt and severe extinction, was thus largely a local turnover event.

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