Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The effect of insularity on the five-horned deer Hoplitomeryx (Late Miocene, Italy)

Island studies increase our understanding of the effects of habitat fragmentation. The study of the Tertiary paleo-island Gargano is an important contribution, because of the long-term isolation under less fluctuating climatic conditions, free from anthropogenic influences; such a situation does not exist in the Quaternary period nor in the Holocene period. This makes the Gargano a unique case to study the effects of insularity in isolation. Here, a highly endemic, unbalanced vertebrate fauna evolved including the five-horned deer Hoplitomeryx. Its post-cranial material contains four size groups, based on the metapodals. In this study, the humerus and radius are described. The question whether the morphotypes are chronomorphs or ecomorphs is addressed. Sexual dimorphism is ruled out as the underlying principle of size separation in this case, based upon body mass estimations and data from living deer. Chronomorphs is the best explanation for the Megaloceros cazioti lineage (Pleistocene, Sardinia) and the Myotragus balearicus lineage (Pliocene–Holocene, Mallorca). Ecomorphs are a better explanation for the size groups of Candiacervus (Late Pleistocene, Crete) and Cervus astylodon (Late Pleistocene, Ryukyu Islands, Japan). An adaptive radiation into several trophic types took place, promoted by the ecological meltdown of the ancestral niche. The drive behind this speciation is increased interspecific competition. For Hoplitomeryx, although the hypothesis of chronomorphs cannot be discarded, that of ecomorphs seems most likely, based upon the coexistence of two or more size groups per fissure, and upon the presence of a huge morphotype, larger than mainland species, in the younger fissures.

Read more in VAN DER GEER A.A.E. (2008). The effect of insularity on the Eastern Mediterranean early cervoid Hoplitomeryx: the study of the forelimb. Quaternary International 182, 1: 145-159. See or ask me a pdf (

For more general information of this enigmatic Late Miocene 'deer', see my Wikipedia page at

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