The site of Cardamone, a karstic cavity in local Plio-Pleistocene calcarenites in the outskirts of Lecce (Apulia, SE Italy), provided a wealthy amount of fossil vertebrates. Although dismembered and partly dispersed in several institutions of Italy, the fauna that survived the vicissitudes of the years is still enormously rich, counting 1886 mammalian specimens and a large amount of bird bones. It includes remains of mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius), woolly rhino (Coelodonta antiquitatis), aurochs (Bos primigenius), red deer (Cervus elaphus), horse (Equus ferus), wolf (Canis lupus), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus), hare (Lepus europaeus) and rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). This mammal community is suggestive of relatively open landscapes under fairly cold climatic conditions; a picture also corroborated by the avifaunal elements. The fauna from Cardamone seems to be an example of an ecotone wherein typical elements of the Mammuthus-Coelodonta faunal complex (M. primigenius, C. antiquitatis, E. ferus and C. crocuta) that probably immigrated from the east, are mixed to the more temperate, autochthonous fauna (characterized in particular by B. primigenius, C. elaphus, L. europaeus and O. cuniculus). The extensive last Pleniglacial sea-level fall combined to intense late tectonics in the Adriatic area presumably caused the emersion of most of the Adriatic sea-bottom, giving rise to a vast wide open plain which could have acted as a corridor between the Balkan peninsula and the south-eastern regions of Italy, permitting the arrival of the eastern faunal elements. This hypothesis would be consistent with the absence of the Mammuthus-Coelodonta faunal complex elements in most of central and southern Italy. An alternative view is the classical one, with the pachyderms following a horseshoe route from the north-east southwards along the Adriatic shores of Italy. Finally, the absence of E. hydruntinus and D. dama and the presence of Mammuthus primigenius and Coelodonta may suggest a dating of the assemblage to the climax of the last glacial, that is at the second Würmian Pleniglacial, which is dated some 22-18 ky from present.

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Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam

M. Rustioni, M.P. Ferretti, P. Mazza, M. Pavia, & A. Varola. (2003). The vertebrate fauna from Cardamone (Apulia, southern Italy): an example of Mediterranean mammoth fauna. Deinsea, 9(1), 395–404.