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Keywords:

  • Insular evolution;
  • rodent;
  • Gargano;
  • Neogene;
  • Microtia;
  • paleodiet;
  • stable isotopes

The Neogene Gargano paleoisland (southern Italy) has yielded numerous fossil vertebrates, some of them showing extraordinary morphological peculiarities. Among these endemic species, the rodent genus Microtia Freudenthal, 1976, is represented by three main lineages that evolve toward gigantism. This genus is the most significant and abundant rodent represented in the Gargano palaeofaunas. Its evolutionary trends reveal an increase of size, accompanied by a complication of molar structure. Before carrying out a study on the Gargano rodent community, its structure and its evolution, it was necessary to characterize Microtia's ecological adaptations. Microtia was adapted to burrowing life, which appears to be a unique adaptation for a murine rodent, since European burrowing Plio-Pleistocene and extant rodents are only represented by arvicolids. Therefore, the extinction of Microtia is likely to be due to competition with arvicolids after the breakdown of isolation, since they occupied very similar ecological niches.