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Prey selection by terrestrial carnivores in a lower Pleistocene paleocommunity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 April 2016

Paul Palmqvist
Departamento de Geología y Ecología (Área de Paleontología). Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad, 29071 Málaga, Spain. E-mail:
Bienvenido Martínez-Navarro
Museo de Prehistoria y Paleontología ‘J. Gibert’ and Casa de Oficios ‘Palacio de los Segura II,’ 18858 Orce (Granada), Spain
Alfonso Arribas
Museo Geominero (ITGE), Ríos Rosas, 23, 28003 Madrid, Spain
E-mail address:


We report quantitative paleoecologic data on the large mammal assemblage preserved in lower Pleistocene deposits at Venta Micena (Orce, Granada, southeastern Spain). Taphonomic studies show that bones were collected mainly by hyaenids, which transported and deposited them near shallow dens. Differential fragmentation of major long bones was produced by hyaenas as a function of their density and marrow content. Strong selection of prey by carnivores—which preferentially killed juveniles, females, and individuals with diminished locomotor capabilities among ungulate prey species of larger body size—is indicated by (1) the abundance of remains of juvenile ungulates in relation to the average weight of adult individuals in each species, (2) attritional mortality profiles for ungulate species deduced from crown height measurements, (3) the presence of many metapodials with different osteopathologies in their epiphyses, such as arthrosis, and (4) a biased intersexual ratio of large bovids. Comparison of the frequencies with which modern African carnivores kill and scavenge ungulates from various size classes with the abundance of these size categories in the assemblage suggests that the Venta Micena hyaena (Pachycrocuta brevirostris) was a bone-cracking scavenger that fed largely on carcasses of ungulates preyed upon and partially consumed by fresh meat-eating carnivores such us saber-toothed felids (Homotherium latidens and Megantereon whitei) and wild dogs (Canis falconeri).

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Prey selection by terrestrial carnivores in a lower Pleistocene paleocommunity
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