Late Pleistocene Panthera leo spelaea (Goldfuss, 1810) skeletons from the Czech Republic (central Europe); their pathological cranial features and injuries resulting from intraspecific fights, conflicts with hyenas, and attacks on cave bears

 

Authors: Diedrich CG

Published in: Bulletin of Geosciences, volume 86, issue 4; pages: 817 - 840; Received 15 March 2011; Accepted in revised form 29 August 2011; Online 9 November 2011

Keywords: Panthera leo spelaea (Goldfuss, 1810), steppe lion skeletons, Late Pleistocene, Czech Republic, taphonomy and pathology, palaeobiology,

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Abstract

The world’s first mounted "skeletons" of the Late Pleistocene Panthera leo spelaea (Goldfuss, 1810) from the Sloup Cave hyena and cave bear den in the Moravian Karst (Czech Republic, central Europe) are compilations that have used bones from several different individuals. These skeletons are described and compared with the most complete known skeleton in Europe from a single individual, a lioness skeleton from the hyena den site at the Srbsko Chlum-Komín Cave in the Bohemian Karst (Czech Republic). Pathological features such as rib fractures and brain-case damage in these specimens, and also in other skulls from the Zoolithen Cave (Germany) that were used for comparison, are indicative of intraspecific fights, fights with Ice Age spotted hyenas, and possibly also of fights with cave bears. In contrast, other skulls from the Perick and Zoolithen caves in Germany and the Ur?ilor Cave in Romania exhibit post mortem damage in the form of bites and fractures probably caused either by hyena scavenging or by lion cannibalism. In the Srbsko Chlum-Komín Cave a young and brain-damaged lioness appears to have died (or possibly been killed by hyenas) within the hyena prey-storage den. In the cave bear dominated bone-rich Sloup and Zoolithen caves of central Europe it appears that lions may have actively hunted cave bears, mainly during their hibernation. Bears may have occasionally injured or even killed predating lions, but in contrast to hyenas, the bears were herbivorous and so did not feed on the lion carcasses. The articulated lion skeletons found in cave bear dens deep within caves scattered across Europe (such as those from the Sloup, Zoolithen and Ur?ilor caves) can therefore now be explained as being the result of lions being killed during predation on cave bears, either by the cave bears defending themselves or as a result of interspecific fights.

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