Archaeologists have identified four mammal tracks aligned in a southwesterly direction
It is the first time in the 18 years of continuous work in this area that ichnites have been identified
Although it is not yet known what animal it was, it has been possible to determine that it walked in an underwater context
Footprints of a 3.1 million year old mammal. This is the finding that a team of archaeologists has identified during the excavation campaign of the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (Iphes) at the Camp dels Ninots site in Caldes de Malavella (Girona). It is the first time in the 18 years of continuous work in this area that ichnites have been identified, a fact that the Iphes consider “very important”.
The identified trail has been found in the Ca n’Argilera sector, on the southern slope of the volcanic building, a sector of the work area that had not yet been excavated. Upon finding them, the team of archaeologists has extracted them to be transferred to the laboratory, where they will be restored, since it is a very fragile material and cannot be outdoors.
Mammal in very shallow water conditions
Although it is not yet known what animal it was, it has been determined that it walked in a underwater context. Until now, archaeologists knew that during the period of time in which the Camp dels Ninots lake was active, its environment was very rich with subtropical animals and plants, in fact, the site has provided “direct” tests of the different animal and plant taxa that occupied the vicinity of the waters, with complete skeletons and in anatomical connection of large and small vertebrates.
However, the importance of this finding is that they had never been located indirect evidence of their presence and this will provide “very relevant” information when it comes to knowing what the behaviors of these animals were both in and out of the water.
The exceptional conservation of complete skeletons and in anatomical connection of large and small vertebrates make it a singular and unique heritage in the country.
In the absence of a more detailed study, archaeologists have identified four footprints aligned in a southwest direction, in which it can be seen how the generative mammal left fingerprints on each of them. “The base of this unit formed mainly by sand, is concreted and hardened and its lithostratigraphic composition indicates that above it it had a shallow sheet of water: it is at the point that the ichnites of the mammal that walked in certain conditions have been identified, therefore, underwater, “the archaeologists explain in a statement.
Specifically, the action consisted of the horizontal dismantling of levels 10 and 11, both 3.1 million years old. In zone 10 is where the trace of the mammal has been found. As for 11, what scholars consider the “richest” from a paleontological point of view, is where most of the macrovertebrate skeletons recovered so far. It was not known what exactly was at the base of this level, so action has been taken at this point.
Vegetation in the area
In the lake levels of this area, a large number of remains of small vertebrates have been found, especially fish, reptiles, birds and amphibians, in an exceptional state of conservation, preserving in some cases remains of possible organic matter. “Studies carried out on plant macrorests (traces of leaves, fruits, trunks, etc.) have allowed us to reconstruct in detail the dominant landscape of this environment from the moment the lake was formed until it dried up and was completely filled with sediment “the researchers add.
As reported in a statement, in the edges of these swampy areas A riverside forest was developed, consisting mainly of alders, although other plant species have been documented, such as poplars, willows, banana trees, etc. Far from the waters of the lake and behind the riverside forests, there were the laurel forests.
The studies carried out on the vegetal macrorests have allowed us to reconstruct in detail the dominant landscape of this environment from the moment the lake was formed until it dried up.
The different lines of research that have been carried out have revealed a “continuous sedimentary sequence”, very well preserved and with a “high degree of temporal resolution”, essential for the knowledge of the climatic and landscape evolution of the European continent at the end of the Pliocene (3.1 million years). In the lake sediments accumulated in the volcano, a complete ecosystem. Some data that allow us to provide knowledge of the biodiversity of this stage in history.
According to the researchers of the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (Iphes), “the exceptional skeleton preservation complete and in anatomical connection of large and small vertebrates, corresponding to species very little represented in the international fossil record, make it a singular and unique heritage in the country “.