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A team of scientists has found fossil remains of Hispanomeryx in the Catalan Vallès-Penedès basin.
On the one hand, they belong to a musk deer derived from the already known H. aragonensis and, on the other, of a new species that has been baptized as H. lacetanus, remembering the name that the Romans gave to the inhabitants of the Anoia zone, the Lacetani or Lacetans.
This new species provides new phylogenetic data for redo Hispanomeryx kinship relationshipIt also shows that the origin and phylogenetic distribution of certain dental structures, in this case the paleomeric fold, were much more complex than previously believed.
The research, published in Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, reveals the presence for the first time of the genus Hispanomeryx in two Miocene sites Catalans from the Vallès-Penedès basin: Castell de Barberà and Ecoparc de Can Mata.
"Probably the abundance of Hispanomeryx in the Catalan basin was lower than that of Micromeryx than in the rest of the Peninsula and that is why it has gone unnoticed until now ”, explains Israel M. Sánchez, a researcher associated with the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont who has led the investigation.
"It is also possible that some fossil remains kept in the collections were misclassified at the time," says the paleontologist.
Musk-producing, large-fanged deer
Musk deer (or mosquitoes) are a group of cetartiodactyl mammals related, despite their vernacular name of 'deer', with the bovidae (antelope, goat or cow).
They are characterized by absence of cranial appendages; males have large fangs and an odd gland located in front of the genitals that produces musk, hence their name.
They are currently represented by a single genus (Moschus) with different species that inhabit mountainous areas of Asia, from Siberia to Afghanistan and Vietnam.
The diversity and distribution of mosquids in the past was much greater than today. Were especially abundant in the Iberian Peninsula during the Miocene (between 23 and 5 million years ago).
Among the forms identified in the Spanish fossil record highlights the genus Hispanomeryx, whose Iberian remains are very abundant and well preserved.
However, they had never been identified in deposits of the Vallès-Penedès, which are rich in Micromeryx fossils, other species of mosquid most related to the current Moschus than with Hispanomeryx.
For a long time it was believed that the absence of Hispanomeryx in Catalan deposits was due to its preference for open environments, very different from those of the tropical forests that grew during the Miocene in what is now the Vallès-Penedès basin.
However, this article recently published by researchers from the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP) and the National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN) refutes this hypothesis.
Sánchez IM, Demiguel D, Almécija S, Moyà-Solà S, Morales J, Alba DM. 2019. «New Hispanomeryx (Mammalia, Ruminantia, Moschidae) from Spain and a reassessment of the systematics and paleobiology of the genus Hispanomeryx»Morales, Moyà-Solà, and Soria, 1981. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, DOI: 10.1080 / 02724634.2019.1602536.