Fossil Miocene amphibians and reptiles from Plakias, Crete

A modern alytid European frog, Bombina. JCM

The Neogene (the Miocene and Pliocene) extends from about 22.5 to 2.5 million years ago, and it has been termed “the age of snakes.”  The global climate became seasonal, drier and cooler. Polar ice caps formed and thickened, and by the end of the Neogene the first of a series of glaciations of the current Ice Age began. Both the marine and continental flora and fauna contained modern looking species. Many older lineages of amphibians and reptiles had disappeared and were replaced by more modern lineages. Birds and mammals continued to dominant terrestrial vertebrate communities, and the first hominids, the ancestors of humans, evolved in Africa and dispersed into Eurasia. The Miocene composed the bulk of this time segment of Earth’s history. In a new paper published in Geobios, Georgalis et al (2016) report on the fossil amphibian and reptiles from the late Miocene of Crete.

The excavation site was at Plakias (early Tortonian, MN 9), Crete, Greece. Most of the material recovered was fragmentary and precludes precise taxonomic assignment. However, the herpetofauna of Plakias was diverse and composed at least six different taxa: an alytid frog, a crocodilian, two turtles (a pan-trionychid and a geoemydid) and two squamates (an amphisbaenian and a colubroid snake). The crocodilian material represents the first such fossils described from Greece and furthermore, one of the latest occurrences of this group in Europe. The pan-trionychid and the geoemydid represent the oldest occurrences of these groups in Greece and further add to their scarce Miocene record from this country. The first description of a fossil amphisbaenian from Greece is also provided. The new specimens from Plakias add to our knowledge of the Miocene herpetofaunas of southeastern Europe. The single colubroid snake specimen adds further to the published record of Miocene snakes from Greece, whereas the amphisbaenian vertebra from Plakias represents the first described fossil of this group from the country, suggesting that amphisbaenians had a continuous range in the northern Mediterranean area.

Georgalis, G.L., Villa, A., Vlachos, E. and Delfino, M., 2016. Fossil amphibians and reptiles from Plakias, Crete: A glimpse into the earliest late Miocene herpetofaunas of southeastern Europe. Geobios.

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