The last panda bear in Europe lived in Teruel

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An article published in 2012 placed the origin of the giant panda lineage in present-day Spain, between 11 and 12 million years ago, from different fossils recovered in the Abocador deposits of Can Mata (Els Hostalets de Pierola, Barcelona) and Nombrevilla 2 (Daroca, Zaragoza). It was the oldest remains of his group, which is currently only represented in Asia and whose most emblematic species is the giant panda of China, Ailuropoda melanoleuca. This species would have evolved from more basal forms such as those found in the Spanish deposits.

Now, an article led by the paleontologist Juan Abella, of the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP), together with researchers from the National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN-CSIC), the University of Cape Town, the University of Valencia and the Joint Paleontological Foundation of Teruel Dinópolis (FCPTD), describes remains of the postcranial skeleton and the dentition of the Indarctos punjabiensis species of the Las Casiones site (Villalba Baja, Teruel), which are approximately 6 million years old. The finding reveals that the last panda bear in Europe lived in Teruel.

"The cranial, mandibular and dental characteristics of these fossils allow it to be classified within the subfamily of the ailuropodinos, a group to which the current giant panda belongs," says Juan Abella. According to genetic methods, the ailuropodinos would have separated from the other subfamilies of current bears during the lower Miocene, about 20 million years ago.

"These bears were predominant in carnivorous communities during most of the upper Miocene in the Iberian Peninsula," explains Abella. At this time there were at least three different bear species in the region that is currently Spain. In general, the skeleton of Indarctos indicates that it would be a basically omnivorous diet animal, although with a large amount of plant component.

The young could climb trees quite easily to escape from possible dangers while larger specimens could face any attack thanks to their large size and powerful claws.

6 million years ago, in the period of time called Upper Turoliense (Upper Miocene), the surroundings of Las Casiones (located between Villalba Baja and Celadas) was a lake area where these bears lived accompanied by a very diverse fauna of other large mammals which included relatives of current elephants, hippos, rhinos and equidae, as well as rodents, porcupines, bovids, cervids, mustelids, hybrids and other carnivores «saber teeth »currently extinct. The association of mammals of Las Casiones is a good example of the fauna before a crisis that occurred at the end of the Miocene and that meant the almost total desiccation of the Mediterranean Sea.

Indarctos fossils were recovered in excavation campaigns led by Luis Alcalá and María Dolores Pesquero (FCPTD) and the most representative are exposed to the public in Dinópolis.

. (tagsToTranslate) panda (t) vivio (t) teruel

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