Bat remains (Mammalia, Chiroptera) from the Middle Pleistocene site of Qesem Cave, Israel, with the first Pleistocene record of fruit bats in the Mediterranean region


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October 2013


Very few data are available on fossil bats of the Near East, a region of great biogeographic significance for that group in the Western Palaearctic. Here, we report on a collection of fossil bats from the Middle Pleistocene site Qesem Cave, Israel, famous for lithic artifacts, hominin remains and rich vertebrate faunas. We identified five microchiropteran species, viz. Rhinolophus ferrumequinum, R. euryale, R. mehelyi, Miniopterus cf. schreibersii, and Myotis blythii, all typical cave-dwellers common also in extant communities in the region. Their appearance suggests mild conditions with variegated vegetation at the time of deposition. In addition, two tooth fragments, tentatively identified as cf. Rousettus sp., provide the first Pleistocene record of fruit bats beyond the tropics. If these remains pass muster, the Quaternary history of fruit bats in this region could be traced back to the Pleistocene, earlier than previously thought, and then the extant extralimital population of Rousettus aegyptiacus could be seen as a palaeochoric element of the Mediterranean biota. In general, the Pleistocene record of bats in the Levant (including Qesem) is characterized by the absence of the Ethiopian elements that dominate the extant Levantine fauna, while the vast majority of the fossil bat forms are elements of the Palaearctic clades.


Middle Pleistocene, Israel, Chiroptera, Taxonomy, Taphonomy, Biogeography, Rousettus

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