Analysis of coprolites from the extinct mountain goat Myotragus balearicus

Welker, Frido; Duijm, Elza; van der Gaag, Kristiaan J.; van Geel, Bas; de Knijff, Peter; van Leeuwen, Jacqueline F. N.; Mol, Dick; van der Plicht, Johannes; Raes, Niels; Reumer, Jelle; Gravendeel, Barbara (2014). Analysis of coprolites from the extinct mountain goat Myotragus balearicus. Quaternary Research, 81(1), pp. 106-116. Elsevier 10.1016/j.yqres.2013.10.006

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Humans colonized the Balearic Islands 5-4 ka ago. They arrived in a uniquely adapted ecosystem with the Balearic mountain goat Myotragus balearicus (Bovidae, Antilopinae, Caprini) as the only large mammal. This mammal went extinct rapidly after human arrival. Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the extinction of M. balearicus. For the present study ancient DNA analysis (Sanger sequencing, Roche-454, Ion Torrent), and pollen and macrofossil analyses were performed on preserved coprolites from M. balearicus, providing information on its diet and paleo-environment. The information retrieved shows that M. balearicus was heavily dependent on the Balearic box species Buxus balearica during at least part of the year, and that it was most probably a browser. Hindcast ecological niche modelling of B. balearica shows that local distribution of this plant species was affected by climate changes. This suggests that the extinction of M. balearicus can be related to the decline and regional extinction of a plant species that formed a major component of its diet. The vegetation change is thought to be caused by increased aridity occurring throughout the Mediterranean. Previous hypotheses relating the extinction of M. balearicus directly to the arrival of humans on the islands must therefore be adjusted. (C) 2013 University of Washington. Published by Elsevier Inn All rights reserved.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Palaeoecology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)

UniBE Contributor:

van Leeuwen, Jacqueline


500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)








Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

21 Feb 2014 11:14

Last Modified:

18 Sep 2015 10:09

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Ancient DNA, Balearic Islands, Diet, DNA barcoding, Ecological niche modelling




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