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Late Pleistocene and Earliest Holocene avifauna from the Loutra Almopias Cave (Macedonia, Greece)

Zlatozar Boev https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8049-7509; Evangelia Tsoukala

13 December 2019 · volume 40 · [issue 1] · pp. 1–31 · PDF [full text]

Abstract: The bird fauna of the Loutra Almopias Cave comprised eight orders, 22 families, 41 genera and at least 47 species (68 different taxa) established based on 551 avian bone finds. The Loutra Almopias Cave is a new (26th) Pleistocene avian locality in Greece. About 92.5% of the material was dated to the Earliest Holocene (11.230 ± 110 y. BP), coming from the upper chamber of the cave, whereas an older assemblage was dated to the Late Pleistocene (37,880 y. ± 370/360 BP), coming from the floor chambers of the cave. Here is provided the first fossil record of 13 species in Greece (Buteo lagopus, Francolinus francolinus, Lagopus lagopus, Bonasa bonasia, Dryocopus martius, Lulula arborea, Bombicylla garrulus, Cinclus cinclus, Sylvia borin, Carduelis carduelis, Loxia curvirostra, Plectrophenax nivalis, and Emberiza cirlus). Three genera (Francolinus, Anthus and Riparia/Ptyonoprogne) were established for the first time in Pleistocene deposits in the country. The record of Fr. francolinus was the first one for the Balkans and Eastern Europe. At both sites inside the cave, regardless of their different age, the habitat preferences of the identified bird species indicated that the surrounding paleoenvironment included both grassy openlands (dominated by gramineans) and woodland (coniferous or mixed woods). In addition, rocky habitats were represented in the surroundings of the locality. The presence of small species of Perdicinae (26%) and corvids (34%) indicated the former existence and prevelance of open grassy fields and rocky environments. The Alpine chough was the most abundant species at both localities. In the Earliest Holocene it comprised 29.5%, whereas in the Late Pleistocene it reached 25.6% of the material. Such a representation suggests a natural non-human accumulation of the material, probably due to the feeding behavior of Bubo bubo. The Late Pleistocene record (19 taxa; 41 finds) included Falco sp. cf. F. peregrinus, Perdix perdix, Perdix sp., Alectoris graeca, Alectoris sp., Lagopus cf. lagopus, cf. Bonasa bonasia, Columba livia, Columba palumbus, Bubo bubo, Melanocorhypha calandra, Anthus sp., Turdus sp., Pica pica, Pyrrhocorax graculus, Loxia curvirostra, Coccothraustes coccothraustes, Pyrrhula pyrrhula, Fringillidae gen. indet., non-Passeriformes indet. and also suggests the site has been used by the eagle owl. The climate probably used to be drier and cooler than in the Earliest Holocene. The record of 17 woodland species from the Earliest Holocene that were absent in the Late Pleistocene could be explained by the more humid and moderate climate at the very end of the Pleistocene.

Keywords: Quaternary avifauna, Balkans, fossil birds, paleoenvironment, Francolinus

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Boev Z., Tsoukala E. 2019 Late Pleistocene and Earliest Holocene avifauna from the Loutra Almopias Cave (Macedonia, Greece). Historia naturalis bulgarica 40: 1–31.

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