In the Quaternary period, the mammalian fauna found on Mediterranean islands differed considerably from contemporary continental wildlife. The insular assemblages were characterized by species, which evolved in a rather peculiar way, of which significant examples can be found on the Balearics, Corsica, Sardinia, the Tuscan archipelago, Sicily, Malta, Crete, several Aegean islands, and Cyprus. Apart from certain native taxa being identified from a few islands like Sicily, Crete and (perhaps) Cyprus, the almost complete absence of endemic species from the actual mammal fauna on the Mediterranean islands is quite surprising. Today the existing populations of non-flying, terrestrial mammals, are almost exclusively dominated by continental taxa whose appearance on the islands seems to be directly related to human intervention. Thus, the exploitation of natural resources on Mediterranean islands was a long-lasting process, beginning before the Neolithic period and lasting until historical times. Islands often represented natural enclosures where allochthonous species had been kept and bred since prehistory in a free-ranging state, while man exerted his control on the animal numbers through hunting being justified as occasionally demanded.
Mediterranean islands, Holocene, Endemic and anthropochorous mammals.