© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. Quaternary glacial/interglacial alternations, influenced by orbital obliquity cycles with a 41-ka long periodicity, started in the northern hemisphere around 2.6Ma ago. Such alternations affected the terrestrial ecosystems, especially those of the Mediterranean region, with changes in the floristic communities and the dispersal and radiation of a number of large mammal open dwellers. Analyses of tooth wear patterns of ungulates from the Early Pleistocene site of Coste San Giacomo allow for a more objective reconstruction on the paleoenvironments and the climate in the Italian Peninsula during this epoch. Our results show that this area was composed by a mosaic of biomes, in particular by steppe and woodlands/wetlands. Evidence of such heterogeneity is provided by the wide spectrum of feeding behaviours found among the numerous ungulate herbivores here recorded, with cervids (. Axis cf. lyra, Croizetoceros cf. ramosus and Eucladoceros sp.) exhibiting browser diets, most of the bovids (. Gazella borbonica and Leptobos sp. and Gallogoral meneghinii) being intermediate feeders and the equid Equus stenonis showing a strict grazer behaviour. These results provide new insights for a timing of changing ecosystems in Southern Europe and reveal the environmental legacy of this global climatic shift, which is essential for understanding the early occupation of Homo in Europe. Thus, our data provide new evidence that such an environmental heterogeneity and a wide spectrum of available food resources could have been the main factors favouring the settlement of early species of Homo in this area.
- Dietary partitioning