On the Analysis of Vertebrate Mortality Profiles: Sample Size, Mortality Type, and Hunting Pressure

  • Lyman R
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Abstract

Determination of whether a particular age profile derived from a sample of prehistoric bones represents cata- strophic or attritional mortality depends largely on the frequencies of age classes. Analyses of mortality profiles derived from samples of cervids (Odocoileus hemionus and Cervus elaphus) that died catastrophically in the Mount St. Helens blast zone indicate that a minimum sample of 30 individuals is required for a reliable inference of mortality pattern when a newborn individual of the taxon of concern has an average life expectancy of about three years. This conclusion is corroborated by drawing 16 random samples of various sizes from two paleonto- logical faunas, each consisting of one taxon, one with a life expectancy similar to and the other with a life expectancy different from the Mount St. Helens cervids. Pre-eruption survivorship of the Mount St. Helens cervids was controlled by an estimated 20% annual harvest rate. Comparison of simulated survivorship in nonhunted cervid populations with archaeologically documented survivorship may provide insights to effects of prehistoric hunting on animal populations.

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Authors

  • R. Lee Lyman

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