Lesvos in the Past
The Rhino of Vatera PDF Print E-mail

The Etruscan rhinoceros (Stephanorhinus etruscus) was an inhabitant of the forests around Vatera two million years ago. This rhinoceros was small and had relatively long limbs. It bore two horns: one larger horn on its nose and one much smaller horn on its forehead. The Etruscan rhinoceros was a browser, and thus has low-crowned molars (brachyodont ) without complex enamel pattern.

Rhinoceroses are odd-toed ungulates (Perissodactyla), and remote relatives of the horses (Equidae). Today, there are two-horned rhinos (Africa and Asia) and one-horned rhinos (Asia), but they are all endangered because of hunting and deforestation. The living two-horned rhinos are the white rhino (Ceratotherium) and the black rhino (Diceros) of Africa, and the hairy rhino (Dicerorhinus) of Sumatra. The African white and black rhinos are closely related, yet the first one is a grazer, and the second one a browser. The Sumatran hairy rhino is closely related to the wooly rhino (Coelodonta antiquitata) of the Pleistocene and the Etruscan rhino (Stephanorhinus etruscus) of the Pliocene.

The living one-horned rhinos are the great Indian one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis), after which the whole family was named, and the smaller Asian one-horned rhino, or Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus). They are not closely related to the lineage of the Etruscan rhino.


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The Raccoon Dog PDF Print E-mail

The raccoon dog of Vatera (Nyctereutes megamastoides) was much larger than the raccoon dog of today (Nyctereutes procyonoides). Two million years ago, raccoon dogs lived all over Europe and Asia. They disappeared from Europe when the wolf (Canis lupus) came to Europe, some time at the end of the Pliocene. That means that sites with fossils of wolf are younger in age than those with raccoon dog remains. Vatera is such an older site. At present, raccoon dogs are typical for East Asia. They have recently been introduced into Europe, where they were released in the wild to establish a new fur animal in the wild. However, it established itself too easily and became really successful.

The raccoon dog is a member of the dog family (Canidae), which includes the dogs, wolves, foxes, and some extinct wolf-like animals. The lineage of the raccoon dogs diverged from the other canids somewhere during the Miocene (7-10 million years ago). Raccoon dogs have nothing to do with raccoons (Procyon lotor), even though they are somewhat alike. The most obvious difference is that raccoons have dark bands on the tail.


Nyctereutes evolution

The Badger and Otter

In the forest of Vatera two million years ago, a badger (Meles thorali) hunted for small prey. There was also another member of the mustelid family, which lived along the riverside. It has not been described further, but it may have been an otter.


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