Paleontologists have described an extinct species of the fallow deer genus Dama from fossils found in Spain.
Life reconstruction of Dama celiae in the Manzanares valley, Spain; other species present are Anas platyrhynchos, Equus ferus, Elephas antiquus, Mauremys leprosa, Bison sp., Bos primigenius, and Stephanorhinus hemitoechus. Image credit: J. Gamarra.
“Traditionally, it was considered that the diversity of the family Cervidae (deer, elk, moose) in the later part of the Middle Pleistocene of Europe was low with only one species at a time that had the size of a fallow deer,” said Dr. Jan van der Made from the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales and colleagues.
“More recently, the existence of a new genus with a species of this size in the Middle and Late Pleistocene of Europe became accepted and descendant of the giant deer Megaloceros savini was shown to have survived into the later part of the Middle Pleistocene of the Manzanares valley with the species Megaloceros matritensis.”
“We describe another new species of deer, Dama celiae, from the same terraces of the Manzanares valley, Madrid, Spain, which adds to the cervid diversity and contributes to our understanding of the evolution of the fallow deer.”
Dama celiae lived in Europe during the Pleistocene epoch, between 365,000 and 295,000 years ago.
The species is characterized by two-pointed antlers with a bifurcation between the brow tine and main beam with a blunt angle and a low position above the burr.
“This new species is the end member of the lineage Dama farnetensis — Dama vallonnetensis — Dama roberti — Dama celiae, which reduced the number of points of the antler from four to two, while the parallel lineage leading to the living fallow deer evolved more complex and palmate antlers,” the paleontologists explained.
Life reconstruction of Dama celiae. Image credit: J.J. Rodríguez-Alba.
The fossilized remains of Dama celiae, including a rib with seven cut marks, were collected from the sand quarries of Pedro Jaro I and Orcasitas in the Manzanares valley.
A huge collection of Acheulean stone tools, such as handaxes, choppers, and flakes, was documented from the same sites.
“Dama celiae was contemporary to Neanderthals and the Acheulean culture,” the researchers noted.
“Cut marks suggest that it was consumed by Neanderthals and probably was hunted.”
“The technique used in the hunting of these animals could be using spears like those from the Schöningen site in Germany or lithic spear points similar to other regions with Mousterian points or convergent scrapers.”
“However, only detailed microwear studies could allow moving forward on this line of interpretation.”
The discovery of Dama celiae is described in a paper in the journal Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.
J. van der Made et al. 2023. The fallow deer Dama celiae sp. nov. with two-pointed antlers from the Middle Pleistocene of Madrid, a contemporary of humans with Acheulean technology. Archaeol Anthropol Sci 15, 41; doi: 10.1007/s12520-023-01734-3
Source : Breaking Science News