In the eastern Iberian Peninsula, the archaeological site of Cuesta de la Bajada (Teruel, Spain) has produced some of the earliest evidence of Middle Paleolithic stone tool traditions together with evidence of equid and cervid carcasses defleshed by hominins. Based on the numerical age of 317-240 ka derived from OSL, ESR and AAR dating methods for the lower part of the Cuesta de la Bajada sedimentological sequence (level CB3), as well as the biochronological inferences for the small and large mammal associations, the site can be attributed to Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 8 or the end of MIS 9. As amphibians and reptiles have precise environmental and climatic requirements and do not differ at species level from the extant herpetofauna of the Iberian Peninsula, they can contribute to the reconstruction of the landscape and climate. In this paper, the fossil amphibians and squamate reptiles from Cuesta de la Bajada are studied for the first time. The mutual ecogeographic range and habitat weighting methods were applied to the herpetofaunal assemblages to estimate quantitative data for the landscape and climate reconstructions. The climate is shown to have been colder and wetter than today in the interior of eastern Spain, with mean annual temperature up to 2.5 °C lower and mean annual precipitation slightly higher than at present. The monthly climatic reconstruction shows differences in the distribution of precipitation over the course of the year, with more abundant precipitation from late autumn to spring (i.e. from October to May), and more or less similar precipitation to today during the summer months (July and August). This suggests there was stronger rainfall seasonality between winter and summer than currently occurs. The paleoenvironmental reconstruction based on the herpetofaunal assemblage depicts a poorly forested (15–20%) patchy landscape with a large representation of dry meadows and scrubland habitats together with well-evidenced aquatic habitats. These reconstructions are consistent with other proxies recovered at Cuesta de la Bajada (pollen, small and large mammals) as well as other European MIS 8–9 paleoclimatic records. We can thus correlate levels CB2 and CB3 with the later part of MIS 8 (265-257 ka) or with a humid fluctuation within the MIS9b (303-290 ka). It is also possible to provide a new description of the environmental and climatic conditions that occurred in inner Spain during a cold period of the late Middle Pleistocene.
Quaternary Science Reviews – Elsevier
Published: Oct 1, 2017
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