Niche variability in late Holocene bison: a perspective from Big Bone Lick, KY

  • Widga C
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Abstract

The Big Bone Lick (Boone County, Kentucky) bison fauna offer a glimpse into the population dynamics and behavioral characteristics of eastern Bison bison during the late Holocene. Examination of the Big Bone Lick dentitions suggests a single kill event that took place during winter or spring. Furthermore, osteometric comparisons of crania and metacarpals between the Big Bone Lick (BBL) bison and western Bison samples suggest that this species adapted to environmental conditions in the eastern US by adjusting developmental timing rather than through overt morphological change. Finally, isotopic (δ13C, δ18O) analyses of bison tooth enamel hydroxylapatite and a unique progression of tooth wear in older age groups indicate these bison were obligate browsers that exhibited substantial differences in inter-annual land-use patterns. The BBL bison assemblage represents a healthy, in situ bison population that successfully occupied a different ecological niche than bison on the Great Plains. Subsistence models that incorporate these animals should consider these important differences. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Bison
  • Dentition
  • Late Holocene
  • Ohio River valley
  • Paleoecology
  • Stable isotopes

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