Exceptional biting capacities of the Early Pleistocene fossil shrew Beremendia fissidens (Soricidae, Eulipotyphla, Mammalia): new taphonomic evidence

  • Bennàsar M
  • Cáceres I
  • Cuenca-Bescós G
 et al. 
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Abstract

The discovery of small, very well-defined and perfectly preserved
toothmarks on a humerus of a mole Talpa cf. europaea from level TE9 of
Sima del Elefante (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos) with a chronology of the
Early Pleistocene is extraordinary. In a previous paper, this bite was
compared with current small carnivores such as Mustela nivalis molars
and with fossil remains of Mustela palerminea and the soricid
(Eulipotyphla and Mammalia) Beremendia fissidens with the purpose of
identifying the predator. It was hypothesised that Beremendia fissidens
could be the bite maker. However, it was not possible to rule out other
predators due to the shortage of Beremendia fissidens remains. Recently,
new fossil remains of this insectivore have been found in Sima del
Elefante levels, allowing the upper dentition to be measured. These new
data suggest that effectively Beremendia fissidens may have had the
capacity to bite prey larger than itself, even though it did not possess
morphological characteristics specialised for the consumption of small
mammals. The addition of small vertebrates (like talpids) to complement
a diet based on insects could have been a way of responding to the needs
of the high metabolic rate characteristic of Beremendia fissidens.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Beremendia
  • Sima del Elefante
  • micromammals
  • toothmarks

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