The Avifauna of Southern Istria (Croatia) During the Late Pleistocene: Implications for the Palaeoecology and Biodiversity of the Northern Adriatic Region



This paper presents palaeoecological and taphonomic analyses of bird remains from Late Pleistocene sediments from two caves in southern Istria, Šandalja II and Ljubićeva pećina. Most of the identified species are found today in Istria and along the Adriatic coast, although the presence of ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus) and willow grouse (L. lagopus) indicates colder conditions than those characteristic of the region today. Taxa from both sites are characteristic of open, forest-steppe, rocky, forest, and mixed biotopes. These sites differ somewhat in avifaunal composition — aquatic-adapted taxa are only found at Šandalja II, probably reflecting differences in human activities and in their geographic settings. Likewise, only Šandalja's assemblages show an increase in the representation of forest-adapted taxa over time. These data from the bird remains complement reconstructions based on mammalian assemblages from these sites. Different taphonomic agents accumulated the bird bones, and bone surface modifications show that birds of prey, small carnivores, and Late Upper Palaeolithic people helped accumulate these remains. The important Late Pleistocene avifaunal assemblages from southern Istria indicate that a mosaic of habitats was present during the Late Pleistocene and a deep time depth to the rich biodiversity of the region today. Furthermore they suggest that the exposed Adriatic Plain supported a diverse and rich biome. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.