Tuesday, January 19, 2021

New findings of birds in paleontological and archaeological contexts of Cuba

With great excitement here I announce the publication of another contribution to the archaeology and paleontology of the island of Cuba. On this occasion as a collaborator to Osvaldo Jimenez, zooarchaeologist, a specialist from the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana, Cuba. Our paper came out today on the scientific journal Novitates Caribaea, available here:



We take this opportunity to extend our thanks to Roger Arrazcaeta Delgado, Raúl Mesa Morales, Marcos A. Acosta Mauri, Gabinete de Arqueología, Oficina del Historiador de La Habana (OHH), Jorge A. Garcell Domínguez, Consejo Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural (CNPC); William Suárez Duque, P.O. Box 16477, West Palm Beach, Florida 33165, USA.; S. L. Olson, Megan Spitzer y Christina A. Gebhard, Division of Birds, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA; Peter Capainolo, Division of Birds, American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA.
Arredondo´s owl (Pulsatrix arredondoi). 

Bilingual abstract: 

 This paper provides new records on Cuban birds such as the endemic Cuban macaw (Ara tricolor), found in two archaeological sites in Old Havana dated in the 17th and 18th centuries. We provide details on Arredondo´s owl (Pulsatrix arredondoi), extinct since prehistory, but whose remains have been collected in two caves near Las Charcas, a community in San José de las Lajas municipality, Mayabeque province. The report also includes the ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis), from a specimen collected in Cueva del Aguacate in the above-cited location. The bone remains found in Cueva de Las Charcas match a paleontological context, but the other was found in la Cueva de los Muertos, an archaic culture archaeological site (i.e., hunter-fisher-gatherers). The possibility that P. arredondoi formed part of this pre-Columbian aboriginal’s diet is considered. The record of C. principalis represents the first finding of this species in paleontological contexts in Cuba. Information on the natural history of the species is moreover provided. 

Spanish:

 Se comentan nuevos registros de aves de Cuba, como el guacamayo cubano (Ara tricolor), hallado en dos sitios arqueológicos de La Habana Vieja, de los siglos XVII y XVIII, asimismo, el búho de Arredondo (Pulsatrix arredondoi), ave extinta en tiempos prehistóricos, cuyos restos hemos colectado en dos cuevas de la comunidad Las Charcas, municipio San José de las Lajas, provincia Mayabeque, y por último, el carpintero real (Campephilus principalis), colectado en la Cueva del Aguacate, sitio localizado también en la comunidad Las Charcas. El resto óseo de P. arredondoi colectado en la Cueva de Las Charcas procede de un contexto paleontológico. En cambio, el otro resto proviene de la Cueva de los Muertos, que es un sitio arqueológico de aborígenes arcaicos, también conocidos como apropiadores mesolíticos. Por vez primera se considera la posibilidad de que P. arredondoi formara parte de la dieta de los aborígenes precolombinos citados. El registro de C. principalis representa el primer hallazgo de esta especie en contextos paleontológicos de Cuba. Adicionalmente se aporta información novedosa sobre la historia natural de las especies tratadas. 


 Citation: 

 Jiménez, O. & Orihuela, J. (2021) «Nuevos hallazgos de aves en contextos paleontológicos y arqueológicos de Cuba», Novitates Caribaea, (17), pp. 163-176. doi: 10.33800/nc.vi17.251.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

New findings! A novel Late Holocene Fauna from Cuba

A new contribution to the vertebrate paleontology of Cuba has been recently published in the scientific journal Palaeontologia Electronica this month. It includes an array of last occurrence dates for some of the extinct species and isotope analysis of environmental and past climate. Open access here!

Palaeontologia Electronica: 23(3):a57

https://doi.org/10.26879/995

Copyright Society for Vertebrate Paleontology, December 2020

I want to take the time to thank the coauthors, Ricardo Viera, Leonel Perez Orozco, Jorge Alvarez, and Candido Santana for over a decade of research and fieldwork. Also, Jorge Garcell, Adrian Tejedor, the Speleological Society of Cuba, and the speleo-group Norbert Casteret; this last discovered and first explored the site in 1986. 


Abstract

The discovery of a cave deposit rich in small land vertebrate, in western Cuba, provided an exceptional opportunity to study the changes in the regional fauna. The species discovered there included many currently rare, unreported, globally extinct, locally extinct, and vulnerable species. Several of the extinct species were subjected to radiocarbon dating and isotope chemical analysis to understand their age, diet, and paleoenvironments. These analyses indicated that the deposit formed from raptor-derived pellets, such as owl vomitus or roosting activities within the cave during the last 2000 years. Others were of organisms that commonly inhabit and die in caves. The radiocarbon dates provided a last appearance time frame for several of Cuba’s extinct mammals. Isotope analyses and faunal composition support the former presence of diverse habitats, including palm grove savannas and mixed woodlands, and a shift from colder-drier local conditions to warmer and wetter conditions, with a more intense colder-drier period between 660 and 770 AD. Our findings further expand the understanding of Cuban Quaternary extinction episodes and provide data on the distribution and paleoecology of extinct taxa that is useful to both Cuban and Caribbean researchers in general. It supports the conclusion that many Cuban extinct species survived well into the pre-Columbian Late Holocene and retained wide distribution ranges until European colonization.

Resumen en Español

Fauna de microvertebrados del Holoceno tardío de la Cueva de los Nesofontes, Cuba: Estratigrafia, cronología, diversidad y paleoecología

Aquí reportamos un depósito rico en fósiles del Holoceno tardío en la Cueva de los Nesofontes, provincia de Mayabeque, Cuba. La formación del depósito y su fauna fueron estudiadas a través de un enfoque multidisciplinario que incluyó análisis de isótopos estables, cronología de radiocarbono y estratigrafía. Se recuperaron miles de restos esqueléticos de microvertebrados que representan una diversa fauna de vertebrados terrestres, incluyendo especies amenazadas y extintas. El depósito se caracterizó por abundantes restos de Nesophontes debido a la depredación de rapaces. Se proporcionan fechas de última aparición no reportadas previamente para la especie extinta Nesophontes major, los murciélagos Artibeus anthonyi y Phyllops vetus. Se obtuvieron estimaciones de edad de radiocarbono (14C AMS) entre ~ 1960 rcyr BP y el presente para los depósitos estudiados. La presencia de especies localmente extintas, incluido el catey Psittacara eups, el carpintero Colaptes cf. fernandinae, el murciélago Antrozous koopmani y el almiquí Solenodon cubanus, sugieren que estas especies tuvieron distribuciones más amplias en el pasado reciente. Los análisis de isótopos y la composición de la fauna indican la presencia de diversos hábitats, entre ellos sabanas con palmerales y bosques mixtos cerca de la cueva. Los isótopos también proporcionan información sobre el hábitat y la coexistencia del murciélago extinto Artibeus anthonyi y el A. jamaicensis aun existente, la dieta de Nesophontes major y las condiciones paleoambientales locales. Los isótopos de oxígeno revelaron una excursión que sugiere condiciones locales más secas/más frías entre 660 y 770 d.C. Nuestra investigación amplía aún más la comprensión de los episodios de extinción del Cuaternario cubano y proporciona datos sobre la distribución y paleoecología de taxones extintos. Apoyamos la conclusión de que muchas especies extintas cubanas sobrevivieron hasta bien entrado el Holoceno tardío precolombino y se conservaron amplios rangos de distribución hasta la colonización europea.



Late #Holocene #cave assemblage from #Cuba suggests extinct species widespread prior to European colonization

Johanset Orihuela, Leonel Pérez Orozco, Jorge L. Álvarez Licourt, Ricardo A. Viera Muñoz, and Candido Santana Barani

https://palaeo-electronica.org/content/2020/3232-late-holocene-fauna-from-cuba …

Copyright Society for Vertebrate Paleontology, December 2020

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Our new paper on Greater Antillean land mammal extinctions is published!

With great pleasure (and relief after nearly a decade of research) here I announce the publication of our paper Assessing the role of humans in Greater Antillean land vertebrate extinctions: New insights from Cuba on the journal Quaternary Science Review. Also, here is a link for its free download to all parties interested, in the next fifty days. 

I take this opportunity to thank all the coauthors of this paper, Ángelo Soto Centeno, Lázaro W. Viñola, Osvaldo Jiménez, Odlanyer Hernández de Lara, Logel Lorenzo, and Alexis Mychajliw – all respected specialists in their fields – for their significant contribution and participation in making this dream come true. Thank you. 

Here is a brief abstract: 

The Caribbean archipelago is a hotspot of biodiversity characterized by a high rate of extinction. Recent studies have examined these losses, but the causes of the Antillean Late Quaternary vertebrate extinctions, and especially the role of humans, are still unclear. Previous results provide support for climate-related and human-induced extinctions, but often downplaying other complex bio-ecological factors that are difficult to model or to detect from the fossil and archaeological record. Here, we discuss Caribbean vertebrate extinctions and the potential role of humans derived from new and existing fossil and archaeological data from Cuba. Our results indicate that losses of Cuba’s native fauna occurred in waves: one during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene, a second during the middle Holocene, and a third one during the last 2 thousand years, combining the arrival of agroceramists and later of Europeans. The coexistence of now-extinct species with multiple cultural groups in Cuba for over 4 thousand years implies that Cuban indigenous non-ceramic cultures exerted far fewer extinction pressures to native fauna than the later agroceramists and Europeans that followed. This suggests a determinant value to increased technological sophistication and demographics as plausible effective extinction drivers. Beyond looking at dates of first human arrival alone, future studies should also consider cultural diversity with attention to different bioecological factors that influence these biodiversity changes. 

Highlights

Cuban land mammal extinctions occurred in several waves after the middle Holocene, most intensively during the last 2000 thousand years

Cuba lost nearly half of its land mammal fauna during the late Amerindian subinterval (< 1500 thousand years)

Most important extinction episodes occurred after the arrival of agroceramist cultures, and later, Europeans

Cultural diversity, demographics, technological sophistication, and naturally occurring factors must be considered in human-induced extinction models

Future extinction models must consider the complex and concomitant combination of bioecological and climatological factors


[in Spanish]

Con gran gusto – y después de casi una década de investigación – anunciamos la publicación de nuestro artículo “Assessing the role of humans in Greater Antillean land vertebrate extinctions: New insights from Cuba” (Evaluación del papel de los seres humanos en la extinción de vertebrados terrestres de las Grandes Antillas: nuevas perspectivas desde Cuba) en la prestigiosa revista Quaternary Science Review. Aprovechen y compártanlo con los amigos y colegas que les interesen estos temas. Tomo este momento para agradecerle a los coautores Ángelo Soto Centeno, Lázaro W. Viñola, Osvaldo Jiménez, Odlanyer Hernández de Lara, Logel Lorenzo y Alexis Mychajliw por su arduo trabajo y participación en hacer este sueño realidad.

Resumen del trabajo:

El archipiélago caribeño es un “punto caliente” de biodiversidad caracterizado por una alta tasa de extinción. Los estudios recientes han examinado estas pérdidas, pero las causas de las extinciones de vertebrados del Cuaternario tardío de las Antillas, y especialmente el rol de los seres humanos, aún no están claros. Los resultados anteriores brindan apoyo a las extinciones inducidas por el hombre, pero a menudo se minimiza otros factores bioecológicos que son difíciles de modelar o detectar a partir del registro arqueológico o fósil. Aquí discutimos las extinciones de vertebrados en las Antillas Mayores y el papel que han jugado los humanos en las extinciones más recientes desde la perspectiva de datos arqueológicos y paleontológicos de Cuba. Nuestros resultados apoyan la hipótesis de que las pérdidas de la fauna nativa de Cuba ocurrieron en ondas: una durante el Pleistoceno tardío y el Holoceno temprano, una segunda durante el Holoceno medio, y una tercera durante los últimos 2 mil años. Estos dos milenios resultan ser los más importantes, combinando la llegada de los agroceramistas y luego de los europeos como importantes golpes a la fauna. La coexistencia de especies ahora extintas con múltiples grupos culturales en Cuba por más de 4 mil años implica que las culturas indígenas no-ceramistas ejercieron menos presiones de extinción sobre la fauna nativa que las agroceramistas y los europeos que siguieron. Esto sugiere un valor determinante para la sofisticación tecnológica y la demografía vías importantes de extinción. Más allá de mirar las fechas de la primera llegada humana, los estudios futuros también deben considerar la diversidad cultural y atención a diferentes factores bioecológicos que influyen en los cambios de biodiversidad.

Recommended citation:

Orihuela, J., Viñola, L.W., Jiménez Vázquez, O., Mychajliw, A., Hernández de Lara, O., Lorenzo, L. and, Soto-Centeno, J. A. (2020a). Assessing the role of humans on Greater Antillean land vertebrate extinctions: new insights from Cuba. Quaternary Science Reviews, 249: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2020.106597



Thursday, August 6, 2020

New fossil mollusk form the Eocene of Cuba

Mollusks are one of the most diverse organisms of the animal kingdom. They inhabit most types of habitats and are extremely diverse in their forms. Octopi and the extinct ammonoids are also mollusks. Within the Mollusca, the so-called phylum of the mollusks, there is the Bivalvia or bivalves. The bivalves are also diverse in their shape, form, and habitat. The group includes clams, cockles, mussels, oysters, and scallops. They have existed for at least 520 million years - since the early Cambrian and appear in most part of the Earth's fossil record. 


During the Eocene - or about 33 to 56 million years ago, the Antillean islands did not exist in the configuration that is known today. In fact, most paleogeographic reconstructions suggest the whole area was a deep marine environment, flanked by two main bank systems (Florida and Yucatan), with small volcanic islands scattered through. The rocks and substructures that would make the Greater Antillean arch later, during the late Eocene - early Oligocene (~33 million years ago), did not yet exist. However, there is no doubt these waters held mollusk faunas - a story that can be told by their fossils. 

Our recent paper in the Journal of South American Earth Sciences (here) describes two unreported species from the Cuban Eocene: the genera Schedocardia and Acanthocardia. The fossilized remains of these mollusks, still encased in rock-matrix, were collected at the Madruga Formation a couple of years ago by Yasmani Ceballos, one of the authors of our paper. This Formation includes microscopic organisms, corals, brachiopods, and sea urchins from the Late Paleogene and Early Eocene - and thus provides a window into the marine life of Cuba's early seas. Equally important, these two fossils represent forms that had not been reported from the Cuban fossil record! 

A free copy of our paper can be downloaded for free on the ScienceDirect page, but only until September 18, 2020. Don't miss the opportunity to acquire the paper now. 

Recommended citation

Orihuela, J., Y. Ceballos Izquierdo, R. W. Portell (2020). First report of the Eocene bivalve Schedocardia (Mollusca, Cardiidae) from Cuba. Journal of South American Earth Sciences, Vol. 103. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsames.2020.102771

Saturday, June 13, 2020

On Antillean vertebrate bat extinctions: PCMDOMINICANA YouTube talks

Our colleagues from the Dominican Republic treated us, this past week, to a series of online lectures on Caribbean bats by the world’s forefront researchers. Each day a different specialist spoke of their research and what is known and unknown about bats. These included talks by Nancy Simmons, Paul Velazco, Liliana Davalos, and Angelo Soto Centeno. 


I want to share Centeno’s talk here and take the opportunity to thank him for mentioning our own ongoing research on Greater Antillean vertebrate extinctions and biodiversity (time stamp 36:20). Many thanks, Angelo! 

I also thank our friends at the PCM from Republica Dominicana and their great initiative with the YouTube channel.

Pteronotus quadridens from Los Haitises, Dominican Republic. (C Joha Orihuela, 2004).