The last panda in Europe lived in the Iberian Peninsula

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A team of Spanish paleontologists has made a surprising finding at the Las Casiones (Teruel) site. The analysis of fossil remains has revealed the presence of a specimen of the genus 'Indarctos' that lived ago about 6 million years, related to the current giant panda of China. This would show that the Europe's last panda He lived in the Iberian Peninsula.

An investigation carried out in 2012 already placed the origin of the giant panda lineage in present-day Spain between 11 and 12 million years ago from different fossils excavated at the site of the Abocador de Can Mata de Els Hostalets de Pierola (Barcelona) and in the one of Nombrevilla-2 of Daroca (Zaragoza). They were oldest remains of this group, which is currently only represented in Asia and whose most emblematic species is China's giant panda, 'Ailuropoda melanoleuca', a species that would have evolved from more basal forms, such as those found in Spanish sites.

Now, a work led by the paleontologist of the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP) Juan Abella, together with the National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN-CSIC), the universities of Cape Town and Valencia and the Paleontological Foundation of Teruel- Dinópolis, has described remains of the postcranial skeleton and teething of the species 'Indarctos punjabiensis' in Las Casiones (Teruel) with an age of 6.23 million years. The results of this work are published this Tuesday in the magazine "Geodiversitas", reveals that the last panda bear in Europe lived in the Iberian Peninsula.

Extinct wildlife

"The cranial, mandibular and dental characteristics of these fossils allow us to classify it within the subfamily of the ailuropodinos, a group to which the current giant panda belongs, "Abella said. According to genetic methods, the ailuropodinos would have separated from the other subfamilies of current bears during the lower Miocene, A few ago 20 million years. "These bears were predominant in carnivorous communities during most of the upper Miocene in the Iberian Peninsula, "according to Abella, who points out that at that 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 an animal of basically omnivorous diet, although with a large amount of plant component. The young could climb trees quite easily to escape possible dangers while larger specimens could face any attack thanks to their large size and powerful claws, the paleontologist said.

According to the researcher, more than 6 million years ago, Las Casiones (9 kilometers north of the city of Teruel) was a lake area where these bears lived accompanied by a very diverse fauna of other large mammals that included hippos, rhinos or proboscides, relatives of current elephants, as well as hyenas and other carnivores currently extinct For Abella, it is a good exponent of the fauna prior to the Messinian salt crisis that led to the almost total desiccation of the Mediterranean.

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