Naturwissenschaften 2019 Apr 3;106(5-6):13. Epub 2019 Apr 3.
Dipartimento per il monitoraggio e la tutela dell'ambiente e per la conservazione della biodiversità, Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale ISPRA, Via Cà Fornacetta, 9, 40064, Ozzano dell'Emilia, BO, Italy.
In the last decades, many studies have focused on the description of fossil badger materials from Eurasia and several evolutionary hypotheses have been proposed. Nevertheless, the debate on taxonomy of the Late Villafranchian-Aurelian European badgers is still far from being solved and several species/subspecies were established over time. Herein, we described for the first time the craniodental and postcranial remains of Meles meles from Grotta Laceduzza (Apulia, Southern Italy), representing the largest sample of this taxon in the European Pleistocene record. Morphological and morphometric comparisons with fossils coming from the European Pleistocene sites were carried out; morphometric data were also compared with those of several extant populations of the European badger. The results of this work suggest that the badger fossil remains from the Mediterranean region can be considered as an ecomorphotype of this highly polymorphic species, showing a great morphological and morphometric variability throughout its wide geographical range. This variability is mainly expressed in some craniodental features and body size and could reflect local ecological adaptations, also linked to glacial/interglacial cycles.