Zoological Studies

Vol. 53, 2014

Late Pleistocene fossils and the future distribution of Rana temporaria (Amphibia, Anura) along the Apennine Peninsula (Italy)

Saverio Bartolini1, Elisabetta Cioppi2, Lorenzo Rook1 and Massimo Delfino3,4*

1Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, UniversitÓ di Firenze, Via G. La Pira 4, 50121 Florence, Italy
2Museo di Storia Naturale, Sezione Geologia e Paleontologia, UniversitÓ di Firenze, Via G. La Pira 4, 50121 Florence, Italy
3Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, UniversitÓ di Torino, Via T. Valperga Caluso 35, 10125 Torino, Italy
4Institut CatalÓ de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont, Universitat Aut˛noma de Barcelona, Edifici Z (ICTA-ICP), Carrer de es Columnes s/n, Campus de la UAB, 08193 Cerdanyola del Valles, Barcelona, Spain

Background: The effect of past climatic changes on the distribution of organisms is a fertile field of research that has been tackled in many different ways. Because the fossil record provides direct access to the chronological and geographic dimensions of biological events occurred in the past, it can be a useful tool for assessing range contractions and expansions related to climatic changes.
Here, we provide support for the ‘recent’ shrinkage of the range of a frigophilous anuran, the common frog, Rana temporaria Linnaeus, 1758, by analyzing the amphibian fossil assemblage coming from the Grotta di Equi, a Late Pleistocene site (about 45 ka) located in the Apuan Alps (northern Apennine chain, Massa-Carrara Province, Italy). Besides, R. temporaria, the assemblage includes cf. Salamandra salamandra Linnaeus, 1758 and Bufo bufo Linnaeus, 1758.
Conclusions: The presence of R. temporaria in the Apuan Alps during a cold interglacial phase at an elevation that is much lower than the minimum current elevation in the region (about 300 m lower) supports the previously reported hypothesis that the Pleistocene coolings favored the dispersal of this frigophilous species along the Apennine chain and that its current, locally disjointed distribution is the effect of the post Pleistocene raise in temperature. Our results concur in predicting that the current global warming will further affect, negatively, the range of this frigophilous species by further reducing its distribution in the southern sectors of its range. 

Key words: Biogeography; Bufo bufo; Fossil record; Global warming; Grotta di Equi; Rana temporaria; Salamandra salamandra.

*Correspondence: E-mail: massimo.delfino@unito.it