New insights into the Middle Pleistocene paleoecology and paleoenvironment of the Northern Iberian Peninsula (Punta Lucero Quarry site, Biscay): A combined approach using mammalian stable isotope analysis and trophic resource availability modeling

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The northern coastal area of the Iberian Peninsula shows an excellent archaeo-paleontological record with a unique representation of Pleistocene mammalian fossils. While the Late Pleistocene is better recorded, the Middle Pleistocene record remains more fragmentary. The Punta Lucero site (Biscay) has yielded the most important fossil assemblage of the middle Middle Pleistocene for the northern Iberian Peninsula in both, number of identified specimens and taxonomic diversity. Punta Lucero constitutes a unique opportunity to evaluate Middle Pleistocene mammalian resource and habitat use,and trophic dynamics employing a combined approach: biogeochemical analysis and mathematical modeling. Stable isotope analysis points to resource partitioning between Punta Lucero cervids and bovids. Stable isotope analysis and trophic modeling evidence resource overlap and interspecific competition among predators, especially between the scimitar-toothed cat Homotherium latidens and the European jaguar Panthera gombaszoegensis. The trophic resource availability modeling assumes that Canis mosbachensis consumed a 20% of preys of more than 10 kg, mainly as carrion. Thus, while there would be a taxonomic overlap with those preys consumed by the large felids, the different strategy would have facilitated the coexistence of these canids with larger carnivores. Trophic modeling indicates a high competition amongthe predator guild. The potential presence of hominins in the area would have reached to an unsustainable situation. However, the potential presence of other prey species, such as Equus sp., would have made the ecosystem more sustainable. The methodology followed in this study highlights the potential of multidisciplinary approaches in the assessment of Pleistocene faunal dynamics.
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