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Gratkorn [A] – A unique terrestrial Sarmatian (~12 Ma) locality: Larger herbivores in outstanding high quality and rich quantity for their time

AuthorsAiglstorfer, Manuela; Bocherens, Hérve; Böhme, Madelaine; Gross, Martin; Prieto, Jérôme
Issue Date2010
PublisherBayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie
CitationZitteliana : Reihe B : Abhandlungen der Bayerischen Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie 29: 13-14 (2010)
AbstractThe small town Gratkorn is located at the northeastern realm of the Styrian Basin (Austria), near the Alpine escarpment, 10 km north of Graz. With so far 62 recorded taxa, it hosts one of the richest and most complete terrestrial vertebrate faunas of the late Middle Miocene (~ 12 Ma; Gross et al. subm.). Important to note, it is one of the very few localities from the Sarmatian sensu stricto in the Paratethys realm with a vertebrate fauna in high quality and rich quantity. Interestingly even subarticulated skeletons were excavated (Gross et al. subm.). Furthermore the Gratkorn locality shows, as an ecotone between the Alpine Orogen and the wide Styrian Basin, a faunal assemblage with elements of both ecosystems. The vertebrate bearing horizon of Gratkorn is located at the base of the clay pit St. Stefan and comprises a soil formation on top of a braided river sequence. Besides many smaller mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fishes and some remains of birds, a wide range of larger mammals was excavated so far. Apart from the proboscidean Deinotherium giganteum the larger herbivorous vertebrates of the Gratkorn fauna are represented by the oddtoed ungulate Chalicotherium goldfussi, the three-toed horse Anchitherium, the giraffoid deer Palaeomeryx, two to three rhinoceroses (Brachypotherium, Lartetotherium, Dicerorhinus; pers. com. K. Heißig), two different genera of pigs, Parachleuastochoerus and Listriodon, a chevrotain (Dorcatherium naui), the musk deer Micromeryx flourensianus and the deer Euprox furcatus. The animals lived in a diversified landscape with fluvial channels, temporarily moist floodplains, shortlived ponds, savannah-like open areas and screes (Gross et al. subm.). A mean annual temperature of about 15°C and a meanannual precipitation of about 486 +/- 252 mm is reconstructed for the semiarid, subtropical climate by sedimentological considerations as well as from biota (Gross et al. subm.). First data for carbon and oxygen isotopic values in the dental enamel of larger herbivores from Gratkorn already give some indications of ecology. Carbon isotope values of teeth can be used to differ between C3 (e.g. trees, shrubs, forbs, cool-season grasses) and C4 (mainly tropical, warm-season sedges and grasses) plant feeders. C3 and C4 plants have different photosynthetic pathways and therefore a different isotopic composition. Typical C3 plant feeders show values between -16 to -9 % VPDB for δ13CCO3, in contrast to C4 plant feeders, which have higher values with -1 to +3 % VPDB. Although all larger herbivores from Gratkorn show typical values for C3 plant feeders, interspecific and intraspecific differences were observed: Great differences in δ13C and δ18O values for two measured individuals of the same deer species (Euprox furcatus) may be due to different food sources. Some herds fed on plants in the open landscape of the Styrian Basin (higher evaporation), and therefore show higher values for δ13C and δ18O, whereas others, who fed on plants in the more closed nearby environments, show lower values for δ13C and δ18O. Additional depletion in δ18O values for the closed nearby environments were possibly created by cold mountain creeks. Pigs often show low values in δ18O due to feeding on underground rhizomes. The differences for δ18O values in the two pigs, might be explained with Parachleuastochoerus feeding more on roots than Listriodon. Additionally a different degree in omnivory might be a factor influencing the values. The role of the tragulid Dorcatherium is not clear yet, but as it is assumed to be at least partly aquatic, further investigations will most probably lead to interesting results. Of course only first assumptions for the interpretation of the stable isotopic composition can be ventured here. In the future these data will lead to an improved interpretation of the ecology of the Sarmatian Gratkorn community.
DescriptionWork presented at the Paläontologie im Blickpunkt, 80. Jahrestagung der Paläontologischen Gesellschaft 2010, 6.-8. Oktober in München
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