Microwear and isotopic analyses on cave bear remains from Toll Cave reveal both short-term and long-term dietary habits

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Abstract

Dietary habits of the extinct Ursus spelaeus have always been a controversial topic in paleontological studies. In this work, we investigate carbon and nitrogen values in the bone collagen and dental microwear of U. spelaeus specimens recovered in Level 4 from Toll Cave (Moià, Catalonia, NE Iberian Peninsula). These remains have been dated to > 49,000 14 C BP. The ability of both proxies to provide data on the diet of U. spelaeus at different times in the life-history (isotopes: average diet of life; microwear: last days/weeks before death), allows us to generate high-resolution and complementary data. Our results show lower values (δ 13 C & δ 15 N) in cave bears than in strict herbivores (i.e. Cervus elaphus) recovered from the same level of Toll Cave. On the other hand, 12 lower molars (m1) were analysed through low-magnification microwear technique. The cave bears from Toll Cave show a microwear pattern like that of extant bears with omnivorous and carnivorous diets. These data are discussed in the framework of all available data in Europe and add new information about the plasticity of the dietary habits of this species at the southern latitudes of Europe during Late Pleistocene periods.

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Ramírez-Pedraza, I., Tornero, C., Pappa, S., Talamo, S., Salazar-García, D. C., Blasco, R., … Rivals, F. (2019). Microwear and isotopic analyses on cave bear remains from Toll Cave reveal both short-term and long-term dietary habits. Scientific Reports, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-42152-7

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