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Understanding Late Quaternary extinctions: the case of Myotragus balearicus (Bate, 1909)

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Abstract Aim 

In this study we present a new view on the extinction of Myotragus balearicus, an extinct highly modified dwarf caprine from the Gymnesic Islands (or eastern Balearic Islands), as a methodological case study for interpretation of Late Quaternary extinctions (LQEs). Methods 

We analyse all available 14C ages obtained from M. balearicus bones from the uppermost part of the Pleistocene and the Holocene, together with the available chronological data of the putative causes of Myotragus extinction. Results 

It has been possible to define two critical dates that allow us to establish an ‘uncertainty period for the Myotragus extinction’ (UPME) in each analysed island (Mallorca, Menorca and Cabrera). For Mallorca, the UPME corresponds to the interval c. 3700 to 2030 calbc(i.e. c. 1670 years of uncertainty). In the case of Menorca, the UPME spans from 10,000 to 1930 calbc(8070 years of uncertainity). In Cabrera the UPME is placed between 3650 and 300 calbc(3350 years of uncertainty). These periods, together with a review of the available information on the chronology of human arrival and the chronology of Holocene climatic change, shed light on the possible causes of the extinction of this species. Main conclusions 

Extinction of Myotragus because of climatic change can be definitively rejected. The Myotragus extinction must be attributed to the rapid effects of the first human occupation. The use of uncertainity periods for the disappearance of species represents a useful tool for the analysis of LQEs.
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Keywords: 14C ages; Extinction models; Gymnesic Islands; Late Quaternary extinction; Mallorca; Menorca; Myotragus balearicus

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2003

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