Dietary behaviour of the Pleistocene Cretan dwarf deer: preliminary clues from mesowear analysis of Candiacervus ex Gr. Candiacervus Ropalophorus from Bate cave


During the Middle and Late Pleistocene Crete was inhabited by endemic dwarf deer. The smallest, Candiacervus ex gr. Candiacervus ropalophorus (sensu Palombo et al., 2008) have been believed to have inhabited rocky environments characterised by typical Mediterranean vegetation. This research aims to investigate dietary behaviour in the sample of the smallest deer found in the Bate Cave late Middle - early Late Pleistocene deposits (152,000±20% to 105,000±20% years). The molar teeth of Candiacervus ex gr. C. ropalophorus from Bate Cave mainly show well-defined and high cusps, sometimes also perceptible in teeth in an advanced wear stage. Therefore, it seems rational to suppose that deer had an eating behaviour approaching browsers. In order to substantiate this hypothesis, it was applied the mesowear method proposed by Fortelius & Solounias (2000) to infer the dietary behaviour of herbivores. The method was originally based on facet development on the occlusal surface of the second upper molar tooth, then extended to other molars, although results obtained show some inconsistencies. The number of M2 specimens of Candiacervus ex gr. C. ropalophorus from Bate Cave is too low to be statistically valid. Therefore, the analysis was extended to the last two lower and upper molars, divided in group according to their wear stage, with the double aim to check the consistence of results obtained by analysing upper and lower molars and verify to which extent wear may influence the cusp shape. The results obtained by extension of the method are encouraging, in fact all the teeth reveal the same trend suggesting a prevalent mixed-feeder habit for Candiacervus ex gr. C. ropalophorus from Bate Cave although in some individuals a more marked browsing attitude is observed. A possible diet included leaves, shrubs and other tender and nutritious vegetation.
Candiacervus ropalophorus, Crete, Mesowear, Dietary behaviour, Pleistocene.


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