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Extinction of the autochthonous small mammals of Mallorca (Gymnesic Islands, Western Mediterranean) and its ecological consequences

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Abstract Aim 

To investigate the chronology, causes and consequences of the extinction of the autochthonous Pleistocene small mammals of Mallorca. Location 

Mallorca (Gymnesic Islands, Balearics, Western Mediterranean). Methods 

We have obtained the first direct 14C ages from the bone collagen of selected samples of two extinct endemic small mammals from Mallorca: the Balearic dormouse, Eliomys morpheus (Rodentia: Myoxidae) and the Balearic shrew, Asoriculus hidalgoi (Soricomorpha: Soricidae). We also present evidence for the absence of both endemics from the earliest Mallorcan archaeological sites and for the introduction of the garden dormouse, Eliomys quercinus, and the wood mouse, Apodemus sylvaticus. Combined information from direct dating of bone collagen of E. quercinus and A. sylvaticus and from cultural associations provides an adequate framework to establish the chronology of the faunal change and to compare it with the chronological information available on climatic change and the first arrival of humans on the islands. Results 

The chronological record includes the latest evidence available for the survival of endemic species and the earliest introduction of small mammals into Mallorca. We present ‘uncertainty periods for extinction’ (UPEs) of both endemic mammals based on the chronology of their last occurrence and on the inferred timing of their extinction (restricted UPEs). Main conclusions 

Possible causes for the extinction of autochthonous small mammals on Mallorca are discussed. Once we have discarded climatic causes, predation by invasive species, competition with newcomers and habitat deterioration, the introduction of diseases emerges as the most reasonable explanation for these extinctions. Based on the identification of changes in keystone species in Mallorcan ecosystems, we propose a tentative schedule of key ecological changes that have taken place over the past 5 millennia.

Keywords: Anthropogenic extinctions; Asoriculus hidalgoi; Eliomys morpheus; Holocene extinctions; Mallorca; Mediterranean islands; disease; island ecology; last occurrence date

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Mammalogy, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY, USA

Publication date: 2008-06-01

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