Villafranchian age is a period of geologic time (3.5—1.0 Ma)[1][2]:7 overlapping the end of the Pliocene and the beginning of the Pleistocene used more specifically with European Land Mammal Ages. Named by Italian geologist Lorenzo Pareto[3] for a sequence of terrestrial sediments studied near Villafranca d'Asti, a town near Turin,[4] it succeeds the Ruscinian age.

The Villafranchian is sub-divided into six faunal units based on the localities of Triversa, Montopoli, Saint-Vallier, Olivola, Tasso and Farnetta.[2]:149

A major division of both geological deposits and time, the Villafranchian is significant because the earliest hominids that clearly evolved into modern man (the australopithecines) appeared within it.[4] The Villafranchian is partially contemporaneous with the Blancan Stage of North America.[4]

Many animals and their extinct ancestors evolved during the Villafranchian, including the Red fox, Least weasel, Moorhen, Etruscan bear, and Tuscany lion.


  1. ^ Rook, Lorenzo; Martínez-Navarro, Bienvenido (2010). "Villafranchian: The long story of a Plio-Pleistocene European large mammal biochronologic unit". Quaternary International. 219: 134. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2010.01.007.
  2. ^ a b The Pleistocene Boundary and the Beginning of the Quaternary edited by John A. Van Couvering. Cambridge University Press 1997
  3. ^ Fossil Mammals of Asia: Neogene Biostratigraphy and Chronology, edited by Xiaoming Wang, Lawrence J. Flynn, Mikael Fortelius
  4. ^ a b c
1995 in paleontology

Paleontology or palaeontology (from Greek: paleo, "ancient"; ontos, "being"; and logos, "knowledge") is the study of prehistoric life forms on Earth through the examination of plant and animal fossils. This includes the study of body fossils, tracks (ichnites), burrows, cast-off parts, fossilised feces (coprolites), palynomorphs and chemical residues. Because humans have encountered fossils for millennia, paleontology has a long history both before and after becoming formalized as a science. This article records significant discoveries and events related to paleontology that occurred or were published in the year 1995.

2012 in archosaur paleontology

The year 2012 in Archosaur paleontology was eventful. Archosaurs include the only living dinosaur group — birds — and the reptile crocodilians, plus all extinct dinosaurs, extinct crocodilian relatives, and pterosaurs. Archosaur palaeontology is the scientific study of those animals, especially as they existed before the Holocene Epoch began about 11,700 years ago. The year 2012 in paleontology included various significant developments regarding archosaurs.

This article records new taxa of fossil archosaurs of every kind that have been described during the year 2012, as well as other significant discoveries and events related to paleontology of archosaurs that occurred in the year 2012.


The feline tribe Acinonychini contains three genera, each with one extant species: the cougar in Puma, the jaguarundi in Herpailurus, and the cheetah in Acinonyx.In addition, a handful of extinct fossil species have been found in Eurasia and the Americas. The evolutionary relationships of these cats still needs to be worked out, with the main focus being the placement of the extinct species in relation to the extant species, and where cheetahs evolved. While cheetahs and cougars are sometimes considered big cats, as felines, they are more closely related to domestic cats than they are to pantherines such as lions and leopards.

Canis arnensis

Canis arnensis (or Arno River dog) is an extinct species of canine that was endemic to Mediterranean Europe during the Early Pleistocene. The Arno River dog has been described as a small jackal-like dog. Its anatomy and morphology relate it more to the modern golden jackal (Canis aureus) than to the larger Etruscan wolf of that time. It is probably the ancestor of modern jackals.

Canis etruscus

Canis etruscus (the Etruscan wolf) is an extinct species of canine that was endemic to Mediterranean Europe during the Early Pleistocene. The Etruscan wolf has been described as a small wolf-like dog. The Etruscan wolf is accepted as the ancestor of C. mosbachensis that is the ancestor of the gray wolf (C. lupus).


Cervavitus is a genus of prehistoric deer that lived from the late Miocene (Vallesian age) to the Early Pleistocene (Villafranchian age) in parts of Western and Eastern Europe, Central Asia and China. It is characterized by having thorny antlers finished in two or three points, brachyodont teeth, molars with a primitive fold (known as the "Palaeomeryx' fold") and complete lateral metacarpals on their feet, which would serve to move through slope areas. Due to its particular position in the systematics and phylogeny of deer, is considered to form part of the first branches of cervids more advanced than the muntiacines, and perhaps is closely related to the branch that would give rise to the modern genus Cervus, although it has traditionally been classified as part of a separate subfamily called Pliocervinae.Cervavitus probably evolved in forested areas of Eastern Europe and then disperse during the Miocene to Western Europe and East Asia, taking advantage of the moist forests of Eurasia at the time, but the progressive aridity of parts of Asia and Europe since the Pliocene and the beginning of the Pleistocene, as a result of changes like the elevation of the Himalayas, forced these deer to take refuge in southern China, where they evolved or were replaced by the modern deer genera Rusa and Axis.


Dinofelis is a genus of extinct sabre-toothed cats belonging to the tribe Metailurini. They were widespread in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America at least 5 million to about 1.2 million years ago (Early Pliocene to Early Pleistocene). Fossils very similar to Dinofelis from Lothagam range back to the Late Miocene, some 8 million years ago.


Eucladoceros (Greek for "well-branched antler") or bush-antlered deer is an extinct genus of deer whose fossils have been discovered in Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. This genus was formally described by Hugh Falconer in 1868.

European land mammal age

The European Land Mammal Mega Zones (abbreviation: ELMMZ, more commonly known as European land mammal ages or ELMA) are zones in rock layers that have a specific assemblage of fossils (biozones) based on occurrences of fossil assemblages of European land mammals. These biozones cover most of the Neogene and Paleogene systems (i.e. rock layers which are 65.5 to 2.588 million years old). In cases when fossils of mammals are abundant, stratigraphers and paleontologists can use these biozones as a more practical regional alternative to the stages of the official ICS geologic timescale. European Land Mammal Mega Zones are often also confusingly referred to as ages, stages, or intervals.


Lagopus is a small genus of birds in the grouse subfamily commonly known as ptarmigans (). The genus contains three living species with numerous described subspecies, all living in tundra or cold upland areas.


Libralces was a genus of Eurasian deer that lived during the Pliocene period. Its main claim to fame are its 2+ meter wide antlers, comparable in size to those of Megaloceros.

Libralces fossils have been found from France to Tajikistan, with the best-known examples being the French L. gallicus.

According to Jordi Agustí, Libralces was the ancestor of Megaloceros, though most other authorities regard it as a relative of moose, Alces.

In the Pleistocene, there were three genera of Holarctic moose-like deer — Cervalces, Alces, and Libralces. In contrast to modern Alces, the Villafranchian Libralces gallicus had very long-beamed, small-palmed antlers and a generalized skull with moderately reduced nasals; the Nearctic Cervalces had longer nasals and more complex antlers than Libralces.

Azzaroli 1953 added Alces latiforns to Libralces, but this position has been challenged.

Lorenzo Pareto

Lorenzo Nicolò Pareto (Genoa, 6 December 1800 – Genoa, 19 June 1865) was an Italian geologist and statesman.

As a man of science, he is considered one of the fathers of modern geology. A member of the Italian National Academy of Sciences, he is credited with naming the Villafranchian age, a European land mammal age between 3 and 2 million years ago overlapping the end of the Pliocene era and beginning of the Pleistocene era.As a politician, he is remembered as a member of Giovine Italia and a patriot during the period of Italian unification. He was the President of the Chamber of Deputies of the 2nd and 3rd legislatures of Kingdom of Sardinia, and served as foreign minister in the cabinet of Italian writer and statesman Cesare Balbo, first constitutional prime minister of Piedmont.

Lynx issiodorensis

Lynx issiodorensis, sometimes called the Issoire lynx, is an extinct species of lynx that inhabited Europe during the late Pliocene to Pleistocene epochs, and may have originated in Africa during the late Pliocene. It is named after the town of Issoire where the first remains were found. It probably became extinct during the end of the last glacial period.It is generally considered as the ancestor of all four species of lynx alive today. Its skeleton resembled that of living lynxes, but it had shorter and more robust limbs, with a larger head and longer neck. As a result, the Issoire lynx more closely resembled a typical member of the cat family than do its extant descendants.

In 1945, another lynx species Lynx shansius was described based on fossils from Asia. However, in 1984 a reexamination of the L. shansius material determined it to be synonymous with L. issiodorensis.


Moorhens — sometimes called marsh hens — are medium-sized water birds that are members of the rail family (Rallidae). Most species are placed in the genus Gallinula, Latin for "little hen".

They are close relatives of coots. They are often referred to as (black) gallinules. Recently, one of the species of Gallinula was found to have enough differences to form a new genus Paragallinula with the only species being the Lesser moorhen (Paragallinula angulata).

Two species from the Australian region, sometimes separated in Tribonyx, are called "native hens"(also native-hen or, in some specialist sources, nativehen). The native hens differ visually by shorter, thicker and stubbier toes and bills, and longer tails that lack the white signal pattern of typical moorhens."Marsh Hens" are briefly mentioned in the Edgar Allan Poe story "The Gold-Bug", as part of a description of the ecology of Sullivan's Island. The main characters also prepare Marsh Hens for supper at one point early in the story.

Puma pardoides

Puma pardoides, sometimes called the Eurasian puma or Owen's panther, is an extinct prehistoric cat. It was long regarded as a primitive species of leopard (genus Panthera). Recent work however has shown that Panthera pardoides and Panthera schaubi are actually the same species, and are probably not pantherine at all, but a member of Felinae related to the cougar, making them more properly classified as Puma pardoides.

Regulus bulgaricus

Regulus bulgaricus is a fossil passerine from the Middle Villafranchian (upper Pliocene to lower Pleistocene ) of Bulgaria. This bird is a member of the kinglet family and genus, and is the only fossil kinglet found so far. It is known from a single ulna, which is 13.3 mm long. The fossil was discovered in 1991 near Varshets, Bulgaria, and described by Zlatozar Boev.

Tuscany lion

The Tuscany lion (Panthera toscana), or Tuscany jaguar, was a prehistoric large feline of the Villafranchian of Italy. It was initially proposed as a distinct species Panthera toscana, but is now often recognized as an early form of Panthera gombaszoegensis.

Ursus etruscus

Ursus etruscus (the Etruscan bear) is an extinct species of bear, endemic to Europe, Asia and North Africa during the Pliocene through Pleistocene, living from ~5.3 Mya—100,000 years ago, existing for approximately 5.2 million years.

Ursus etruscus appears to have evolved from Ursus minimus and gave rise to the modern brown bear, Ursus arctos, and the extinct cave bear, Ursus spelaeus. The range of Ursus etruscus was mostly continental Europe with specimens also recovered in the Great steppe region of Eurasia. The latest fossil evidence for Ursus etruscus was recovered in Israel, Croatia, and Toscana, Italy.

Some scientists have proposed that the early, small variety of U. etruscus of the middle Villafranchian era survives in the form of the modern Asian black bear.


Varshets (Bulgarian: Вършец, variously transliterated) is a spa town in Montana Province, northwestern Bulgaria. It is the administrative centre of the homonymous Varshets Municipality. As of December 2009, its population is 6,538. The town is located on the northern slopes of the western part of the Balkan mountains in the small valley of the Botunya River, at 43°12′N 23°17′E, 359 metres above sea level. One of the oldest and most popular resorts in northern Bulgaria, it is known for its curative mineral springs, mild mountain climate, natural environment and a large park. The town's tourist infrastructure includes two spa centres, a polyclinic, several rest houses, hotels and also many private lodgings. Varshets has an art gallery, a municipal museum and an Eastern Orthodox church dedicated to Saint George.

A 2nd century BC bronze sculpture of a Thracian boy found in the vicinity of the town is today a symbol of Varshets. The modern town is linked to Medeca, a Roman and Byzantine site first mentioned in the 6th century AD. Varshets' existence was also evidenced in 16th century documents. The first state baths in Varshets were built in 1910 and were run by Damyan Ivanov, a balneologist who specialized in Austria-Hungary. The New Baths were built in 1930, and the Sun Garden was arranged in 1934. In 1950, Varshets was proclaimed a national resort.

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