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ResearchBlogging.orgHave you ever wondered what animals were present in Palawan 14,000 years ago?

You don’t need to think anymore because a team of scientists from the University of the Philippines, the University College Dublin, and the National Museum (of the Philippines) had already described Palawan’s fauna during that time, in their recent publication [1].

Writing in Quaternary International, Piper et. al., , say that their archaeological site (Ille cave, 11 11′ 46” N; 119 30′ 19” E) has produced “fossil evidence for many extant (read: currently existing) mammals and for four taxa that are locally extinct  (in Palawan)”.  These enable the team to draw a conclusion on Palawan’s recent biogeograhic history and to surmise the impact of human population in the island.

What are these mammals?

1.   A mandibular ramus ( an extension of the man

Palawan pangolin, Manis culionensis (Courtesy, professorpaulsnatureencyclopedia.blogspot.com)

dible) attributed to Crocidura batakorum, a recently discovered shrew  from Palawan.

2. Bats – Pteropus sp. (Flying fox), Cynopterus brachyotis (Short-nosed fruit bat), Rhinolophus creaghi (Creagh’s horseshoe bat), Hipposideros diadema (Diadem roundleaf bat), Hipposideros ater (Dusky roundleaf bat), and Myotis macrotarsus (Phil. large-footed myotis)

3.  Macaca fascicularis (Long-tailed macaque)

4.  Manis culionensis (Palawan pangolin) locally known as Balintong (for obvious reasons).

5.  Squirrels – Hylopetes nigripes (Arrow-tailed flying squirrel) , Sundasciurus sp (Tree squirrels).

6.  Rats – Maxomys panglima (Palawan spiny rat), Rattus tiomanicus (Malaysian field rat) , Sundamys muelleri (Great Sunda rat)

7.  Hystrix pumila(Palawan porcupine)

The authors are not sure if the foot bones they got were from a dhole (image above) or from a domesticated dog. (Courtesy, wiki)

8.  Dogs – Cuon/Canis sp. (Dhole ?) and Canis familiaris (domesticated dog)

9.  Amblonyx (Aonyx) cinereus (Oriental small-clawed otter)

10.  Mydaus marchei (Palawan stink badger)

11.  Herpestes brachyurus (Short-tailed mongoose)

12.  Arctictis binturong(Palawan bearcat)

Sumatran tiger, maybe the most similar to the tiger bones found in Ille cave. (Courtesy, Monika Betley)

13.  Paradoxurus hermaphroditus(Common palm civet)

14.  Cats – Panthera tigris (Tiger),  and Prionailurus bengalensis (Leopard cat). This increases the historic range of the tigers.

15.  Deers – Axis calamianensis (Calamian hog deer), and Cervus sp(p) (They cannot determine the exact species of this deer.)

Calamian hog deer (Courtesy, Rune Midtgaard)

6.  Sus ahoenobarbus (Palawan bearded pig)

It is interesting to note that the fossils the team analyzed came from small mammals which undergoes natural death, and from human food left-overs which enables them to suggest the possible human impact on the faunal diversity.  (Your trash now is as an archeological find in the future!)

With this accounting of animals, what have the authors concluded?

1. That Palawan has a strong biogeographic affinities to Borneo and the Sunda shelf.  BUT…

2.  There exist no land bridge between Palawan and Borneo during the last glacial maximum;  the last land connection could have been way before the existence of humans in the region. The authors give these reasons:  “a)  the high endemism observed in the mammal community of Palawan; 2) the fact that many of the endemic and extinct taxa represented are characteristic of the Middle Pleistocene; and 3) the absence on Palawan of large closed-forest species that are otherwise common on the Sunda Shelf.”

3.  The disappearance of large species were “primarily a result of the dramatic reduction of available territory and changes in the local environment”.  BUT there are also clues that the deers were “under human hunting pressures throughout the whole island judging from their abundance in cave sites assemblages (where humans once lived)”.

Palawan has always been interesting  since the animals it hosts is a combination of both the oceanic and the continental. Its preservation can not be strongly emphasized.

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[1] Piper, P., Ochoa, J., Robles, E., Lewis, H., & Paz, V. (2011). Palaeozoology of Palawan Island, Philippines Quaternary International, 233 (2), 142-158 DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2010.07.009

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