Rare crested rat subfossils unveil Afro-Eurasian ecological corridors synchronous with early human dispersals

Ignacio A. Lazagabaster*, Valentina Rovelli, Pierre Henri Fabre, Roi Porat, Micka Ullman, Uri Davidovich, Tal Lavi, Amir Ganor, Eitan Klein, Keren Weiss, Perach Nuriel, Meirav Meiri, Nimrod Marom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Biotic interactions between Africa and Eurasia across the Levant have invoked particular attention among scientists aiming to unravel early human dispersals. However, it remains unclear whether behavioral capacities enabled early modern humans to surpass the Saharo- Arabian deserts or if climatic changes triggered punctuated dispersals out of Africa. Here, we report an unusual subfossil assemblage discovered in a Judean Desert's cliff cave near the Dead Sea and dated to between ∼42,000 and at least 103,000 y ago. Paleogenomic and morphological comparisons indicate that the specimens belong to an extinct subspecies of the eastern African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi maremortum subspecies nova, which diverged from the modern eastern African populations in the lateMiddle Pleistocene ∼226,000 to 165,000 y ago. The reported paleomitogenome is the oldest so far in the Levant, opening the door for future paleo- DNA analyses in the region. Species distribution modeling points to the presence of continuous habitat corridors connecting eastern Africa with the Levant during the Last Interglacial ∼129,000 to 116,000 y ago, providing further evidence of the northern ingression of African biomes into Eurasia and reinforcing previous suggestions of the critical role of climate change in Late Pleistocene intercontinental biogeography. Furthermore, our study complements other paleoenvironmental proxies with local-instead of interregional- paleoenvironmental data, opening an unprecedented window into the Dead Sea rift paleolandscape.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere2105719118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number31
StatePublished - 3 Aug 2021

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  • Ecological models
  • Geometric morphometrics
  • Paleoenvironment
  • Paleogenetics
  • Rodent


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