Fossil Vertebrate Database from Cova des Pas de Vallgornera (Llucmajor, Mallorca)

Latest version published by Instituto Mediterráneo de Estudios Avanzados (CSIC) on May 17, 2021 Instituto Mediterráneo de Estudios Avanzados (CSIC)

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The data set presented in this paper includes the fossil fauna collected in the cave named Cova des Pas de Vallgornera (CPV), located on the southern coast of Mallorca (Balearic Islands, Spain). It holds 1481 catalogued items, 97.5% identified at species level. Mammalia, Aves, Reptilia and Amphibia are represented in the Database. The fauna collected in the cave includes the three endemic mammals present on Mallorca during the Early Pleistocene (Myotragus aff. kopperi, Hypnomys onicensis and Nesiotites aff. ponsi). There are also represented two taxa of Chiroptera (Rhinolophus aff. mehelyi and Pipistrellus sp.), 16 taxa of birds (6 of them identified at species level), one Reptilian taxon (Podarcis sp.) and one Amphibian taxon (Discoglossus sp.). Most of fossils were collected during a single excavation campaign of 3 days (28-30th May, 2010). A few remains were obtained in two previous visits to the cave, in 2006 and 2009. All the material is conserved and documented at the Vertebrate Collection curated at the IMEDEA [Institut Mediterrani d'Estudis Avançats (CSIC-UIB)]. The assemblage of CPV fossils is a part of the paleontological collection IMEDEA-PALEOVERT, included at the GBIF portal.

Data Records

The data in this occurrence resource has been published as a Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A), which is a standardized format for sharing biodiversity data as a set of one or more data tables. The core data table contains 1,481 records.

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How to cite

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

Díaz A., Bover P., Alcover J.A. (2014) Fossil Vertebrate Database from Cova des Pas de Vallgornera (Llucmajor, Mallorca). International Journal of Speleology.


Researchers should respect the following rights statement:

The publisher and rights holder of this work is Instituto Mediterráneo de Estudios Avanzados (CSIC). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY 4.0) License.

GBIF Registration

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Fossil vertebrates; Cova des Pas de Vallgornera; Myotragus; Myotragus aff. kopperi; Nesiotites aff. ponsi; Hypnomys onicensis; Rhinolophus aff. mehelyi; Athene vallgornerensis; Discoglossus sp.; Podarcis sp.; Specimen


Anna Díaz
  • Originator
Freelance biologist
Pere Bover
  • Metadata Provider
  • Author
  • Principal Investigator
Researcher Hired
C/Miquel Marquès,21
07190 Esporles
Illes Balears
+34 971173384
Josep Antoni Alcover
  • Point Of Contact
Scientific Researcher
C/Miquel Marquès,21
07190 Esporles
Illes Balears
+34 971173384

Geographic Coverage

Cova des Pas de Vallgornera is an extensive maze cave (more than 70 km) located on the south coast of Mallorca (Balearic Islands). Coordinates of the CPV entrance: 39°22′0″N, 2°52′25″E, Datum: WGS84. It is considered one of the 30 longest caves in the world. It was discovered in 1968 in the course of a drilling carried out for the construction of a cesspit. Cova des Pas de Vallgornera is the longest karstic system currently known in the Balearics. The fossiliferous deposit is located at the end of a passage known as Galeria del Tragus and Sala del Col•lapse. For a more extensive description see Merino et al. (2011) and Bover et al. (in press: 2014). The cave is protected by the Balearic Conselleria de Medi Ambient, the Ministry of Environment of the Government of the Balearic Islands. It was declared Site of Community Importance within the Natura 2000 Network (European Council Directive 92/43/EEC, no. ES5310049). For a detailed description of the cave, see Merino et al. (2008, 2011).

Bounding Coordinates South West [39.36, 2.86], North East [39.37, 2.89]

Taxonomic Coverage

Most of the taxa from Cova des Pas de Vallgornera are Mammalia (97.1% of the catalogued items) followed by Aves (1.9%), Reptilia (0.8%) and Amphibia (0.2%). It is worth mentioning here that the data set contains the type material of an extinct species of little owl from the Early Pleistocene of Mallorca (Athene vallgornerensis). The collection includes 23 taxa and 97.5% of the specimens are identified at species level. Myotragus aff. kopperi is the most represented species in the database (897 catalogued items). The preservation of material is very good.

Class Mammalia, Reptilia, Amphibia, Aves
Order Passeriformes, Cetartiodactyla, Rodentia, Eulipotyphla, Chiroptera, Anseriformes, Falconiformes, Gruiformes, Charadriiformes, Columbiformes, Strigiformes, Squamata, Anura
Family Corvidae, Fringillidae, Bovidae, Vespertilionidae, Anatidae, Accipitridae, Falconidae, Rallidae, Scolopacidae, Columbidae, Tytonidae, Strigidae, Discoglossidae, Muscicapidae, Fringillidae, Gliridae, Soricidae, Rhinolophidae, Lacertidae, Turdidae
Genus Pipistrellus, Podarcis, Corvus, Falco, Turdus, Aegypius, cf Gyps, Crex, Myotragus, Hypnomys, Nesiotites, Rhinolophus, Podarcis, Discoglossus
Species Myotragus aff. kopperi, Hypnomys onicensis, Nesiotites aff. ponsi, Rhinolophus aff. mehelyi, Athene vallgornerensis, Pica mourerae, Columba palumbus, Accipiter nisus, Tyto balearica, Scolopax rusticola

Temporal Coverage

Start Date 2006-01-01
Start Date 2009-10-09
Start Date / End Date 2010-05-28 / 2010-05-30

Project Data

No Description available

Title Excavació i estudi dels materials procedents de la Cova des Pas de Vallgornera (Llucmajor, Mallorca). Primera fase.
Funding Consell Insular de Mallorca; IMEDEA (UIB-CSIC).

The personnel involved in the project:

Pere Bover
  • Principal Investigator

Sampling Methods

The excavation campaign was carried out during 28-30 May 2010. All the fossil fauna was labelled and protected. The material was mainly collected by hand and situated in the topographical survey indicating the number of the closest established section. Material partially covered by flowstone was extracted from the deposit through mechanical methods. Associated skeletons have been individualized.

Study Extent All the specimens were obtained in Cova des Pas de Vallgornera. They were mainly obtained in Galeria del Tragus and the subsequent Sala del Col•lapse. The Galeria del Tragus is acceded through a 4h underground trip, including one hour of swimming and 3h walking, negotiating several narrow passages. The Galeria del Tragus consists of a 270 m long, 10 m wide and 10 m high gallery, connected through a narrow passage to the Sala del Col•lapse, a hall c, 40 x 10 m sealed by a huge collapse of blocks and sediment, short after the incorporation of the bones. This gallery was in contact with the exterior during the Early Pleistocene, allowing the deposition of the bones through water transport.

Method step description:

  1. After collection, the material was packed in protected containers that were carried outside the cave by a group of volunteers. The fossils have been identified by taxonomists of the IMEDEA (Pere Bover, Carmen Guerra and Josep Antoni Alcover), the University of the Basque Country - Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea (Juan Rofes) and the Universidad de Zaragoza (Glória Cuenca-Bescós). The skeletal remains of Myotragus from CPV were generally in good preservation state. Most of bones are complete. From a conservation and restoration point of view, major issues are related to sediment presence. This sediment, which partially or fully covers some bones, can be present as: 1) a thin layer of calcium carbonate (less than 5mm thick), or 2) as thick concretions, covering both the bone and the surrounding soft or hard clay. There is a number of cracked and broken bones. Some of these bones have been consolidated with acrylic resin (Paraloid B-67), and attached with nitrocellulosic adhesive (Imedio). Some bones (like humeri and femora) have a more fragile consistency (with some powdering traces in both fracture plans and spongy tissue), while other bones, like the jaws and metapodials, are very well preserved (they are very compact and without powdering traces). The removal of the remains of sediment on the bones from CPV was mainly performed mechanically. Depending on the hardness and volume of sediment, vibroincisor, knife, punch and metal or wood poles were used. However, in many cases, the sediment was previously softened with distilled water and/or alcohol applied with brush or swab. Only the parts of the bones with powder damage (especially in areas with cracks and fracture planes) were consolidated. In these cases an acrylic resin (Paraloid B-67) was used, diluted 5-10% in acetone, which was applied with a brush or by dripping. Both cellulose nitrate (Imedio) and acrylic resin (Paraloid B-67) were used to hold the fragments. When the fragments to be glued were small or lightweight only Paraloid B-67 was used. A professional conservator (B.Font) performed all the conservation work. All the material was numbered to be included at the IMEDEA Vertebrate Collection, and it is currently preserved in plastic bags, plastic boxes and cardboard boxes. All the material has been digitalized and included in the IMEDEA vertebrate Collection. To guarantee the quality of the database in the GBIF network, the Cova des Pas de Vallgornera dataset has been standardized following the standard Darwin Core version 1.2 for information exchange of natural history collections, and it has been later analysed to correct any possible error with the Darwin Test (an application to test and check data in the Darwin Core format, developed and supported by the Coordination Unit of the Spanish GBIF national node Among the checks performed, errors of omission, typographic, convention and consistency were analysed.

Collection Data

Collection Name IMEDEA
Collection Identifier
Parent Collection Identifier 7f591d18-f762-11e1-a439-00145eb45e9a
Specimen preservation methods Other
Curatorial Units Between 1,481 and 1,481 FossilSpecimen

Bibliographic Citations

  1. Bover P.,Valenzuela A., Guerra C., Rofes J., Alcover J.A., Ginés J., Fornós J.J., Cuenca-Bescós G. & Merino A. (submitteD) The Cova des Pas de Vallgornera (Llucmajor, Mallorca): an singular deposit containing an extraordinarily well preserved Early Pleistocene vertebrate fauna. International Journal of Speleology.
  2. Guerra C., Bover P. & Alcover, J.A. (2012) A new species of extinct little owl from the Pleistocene of Mallorca (Balearic Islands). Journal of Ornithology, 152: 347-354. DOI 10.1007/s10336-011-0749-3
  3. Merino A., Mulet A., Mulet G., Croix A. & Gràcia F. (2008) La cova des Pas de Vallgornera (Llucmajor, Mallorca): alcanza los 55 kilómetros de desarrollo topográfico. Endins, 32: 33-42.
  4. Merino A., Mulet A., Mulet G., Croix A., Kristofersson A., Gràcia F., Ginés J. & Fornós J.J. (2011) La cova des Pas de Vallgornera (Llucmajor, Mallorca). La cavitat de major desenvolupament de les Illes Balears. Endins, 35/Monografies de la Societat d’Història Natural de les Balears, 17: 147-164.
  5. Jordana X, Marín-Moratalla N, Moncunill-Solé B, Bover P, Alcover JA, et al. (2013) First Fossil Evidence for the Advance of Replacement Teeth Coupled with Life History Evolution along an Anagenetic Mammalian Lineage. PLoS ONE 8(7): e70743. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070743

Additional Metadata

The excavation was possible thanks to the help and effort of a large group of cavers from the Balearic Federation of Speleology (FBE) and a large number of people have collaborated in the transport, conservation and study of the material. We should name here: Guillem Mulet, Antoni Mulet, Anders Kristofersson, Antoni Croix and Manolo Luque as cavers’ leaders, Enric Alcover, Àlex Valenzuela and Carl Mehling, as part of excavation team, Bernat Font as conservator, Carmen Guerra, Gloria Cuenca-Bescós, and Juan Rofes as taxonomists, Helena Inglada as technical of the Direcció General de Patrimoni (responsible authority on Historical Heritage) of the Consell de Mallorca (Mallorcan Government), and Francesc Ruiz as manager for obtaining of sponsors. The Consell de Mallorca provided financial resources to build the bridge over the most delicate sector of the Galeria del Tragus. The Direcció General de Biodiversitat (responsible authority on Nature Management of the Balearic Government), and the Direcció General de Patrimoni permitted to carry out the excavation in the Cova des Pas de Vallgornera. The companies Oxidoc, Es Refugi, and Foracorda provided some equipment for the excavation team. Additional support was provided by Protección Civil España, Consejo Superior de Deportes, and Federación Española de Espeleología. One of the authors, PB, received support from a JAE-DOC (CSIC) contract (Junta para la Ampliación de Estudios) during the excavation. This paper is included in the Research Project CGL2012-38087 (Dirección General de Investigación Científica y Técnica of the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad).