But it is the battles these bears fought with the equally impressive cave lions that is perhaps the most intriguing. Three skeletons of cave lions have been found so far 800m deep within Romania's Ursilor cave.These remains overlap with the cave bear's territory, suggesting the lions had entered to hunt and kill bears.
Another cave, known as the Zoolithen cave near Burggeilenreuth, Germany has yielded a far more impressive hoard, however.
Dr Diedrich has researched the remains of 13 cave lions found in Zoolithen.
Some of you maybe familiar with Dr. Cajus G. Diedrich's research on central European Pleistocene cave bear, cave lion, giant hyena, wolf & leopard relations in mountainous cave rich areas. As a leading authority, Dr. Diedrich's pioneering research reconstructs a 'Battle Royale' of predation & scavenging, deep inside Europe's caves between cave bear, cave lion, & hyena. In deeper detail, this thread examines Dr. Diedrich's research in better understanding cave bear & cave lion relations.
Cave bear population structure has been studied recently from three Slovenian localities that yielded very large samples of teeth: Divje babe I, Potoč ka zijalka, and Mokrica cave (DEBELJAK, 2002, 2004, 2007). Age structure analyses, among others, showed that the mortality in these caves was seasonally restricted. Some evidences will be discussed as follows:
Frequency distribution of milk d4 teeth in 6 age classes based on the degree of root formation, root resorption, and crown wear (816 left specimens from Divje babe I cave) shows well-defined mortality decline after the age of 3-4 months when cubs, accompanied by their mothers, left their den in spring.
During the ontogenetic development originally hollow tooth roots gradually became infilled with dentine. Frequency distributions of 330 juvenile left M1 teeth in regard to the thickness of their root wall and width of their pulp canals shows two distinct mortality peaks in all three sites. The first peak presumably represents yearlings that died during their second winter, and the second peak 2-year-olds that died in their third winter. The intervening hiatus indicates that bears were absent from the cave during the summer period.
Microscopic analysis of growth layers in dental tissues, especially cementum increments, of juvenile, subadult and young adult specimens has confirmed that the majority of deaths occurred during hibernation and probably also in short posthibernation period.
Diedrich C. 2009, Seasonal mortality of cave bear: evidence from Slovenian sites.
Post by grrraaahhh on Jun 11, 2011 12:35:47 GMT -9
Diedrich (Continued): Steppe Lion Predation of Cave Bear
Within a larger scaled project about the taphonomy of steppe lion bones of Central Europe in and outside of caves a modified model can be presented for lion remains in cave bear den caves. One reason of the lion bone presence in caves, especially at the entrances, is activity of hyenas (DIEDRICH, 2009c). Those to lions antagonistic behaving second large predators of the Ice Age of Europe must have imported lion carcass remains into their cave dens, such as described not only for the Perick Caves (DIEDRICH, 2009a). Whereas at such sites incomplete and single lion bones or jaws and skulls with chew or cracking marks are known, never articulated skeletons are reported.
The taphonomic situation of lion remains in caves becomes much more complex resulting from a new study of several cave bear den caves in the Sauerland Karst, Germany (Perick caves, Martins Cave, Bilstein Cave, Keppler Cave), Harz Mountain, Germany (Hermanns Cave) (DIEDRICH, 2009b-f), and Carpathians, Romania (Ursilor Cave). In the Hermanns Cave and in the Ursilor Cave originally articulated skeletons of the large cats were found deeply in the cave bear dens, several hundred to up to 800 meters deep, even after difficult passages (DIEDRICH et al., 2010). A similar cave bear den penetrating situation by lions but not that deep is found at the Balve Cave, Bilstein Cave and Keppler Cave (Sauerland Karst, NW Germany). All those caves prove that lions went time by time into caves and died there most probably as a result of lion-cave bear antagonism.
All lion Panthera leo spelaea (GOLDFUSS, 1810) material studied is from more or less grown up animals, whereas juvenile lions are lacking. It is unclear, if mainly females are dominantly present deep in the caves – which possibly built such as in modern lion clans the hunting packs. Steppe lions never used caves to raise up their cubs, nor to hide or protect themselves, especially because the caves were occupied by hyenas and cave bears (DIEDRICH, 2007). The only reason of the presence of articulated lion skeletons, sometimes being scattered and disarticulated (all situations documented in the Ursilor Cave), must have been an active cave bear hunt, which took place most probably especially in winter times, when food prey sources were scarce, and when it was most easy to kill bears during hibernation, especially the cubs. During such attacks a grown up cave bear could have killed easily a lion, but as a herbivore, those cave bears would not have touched a lion carcass. This might explain articulated lion skeletons deep in cave bear den caves best. This predation stress of lions onto cave bears during winter times seems to be the second main reason (first are hyenas cf. DIEDRICH, 2009c) why cave bears hibernated as deep as possible in caves, even climbing through dangerous and difficult passages.
In the cave bear den Ursilor Cave the bears went even up to the end 1,500 meters deep through difficult passages, a situation which is present at many large cave bear den caves all over Central Europe – hibernating deeply in caves was the protection against attacks of hyenas and lions during their hibernation. Whereas hyenas are bad climbers and not able to follow and hunt cave bears deeply in many caves, the felids are best climbers and could have reached deep branches of large cave systems.
Diedrich C. 2009, Cave bear predation by steppe lions in Central Europe – and another reason why cave bears hibernated deeply in caves.
Post by grrraaahhh on Jun 11, 2011 13:25:18 GMT -9
Three Late Pleistocene steppe lions Panthera leo spelaea (Goldfuss 1810) skeleton remains were found within a new exploration campaign in the Ursilor Cave of western Romania (Carpathians), whereas in former times only a single lion bone remain was reported at the entrance (TERZEA, 1978). Those new discoveries are three articulated skeletons with different degrees of preservation. All of them were found 800 meters deep in the cave next to the hibernation plateaus of cave bears (DIEDRICH et al., 2009). One lioness skeleton is weathered and was found directly on an active small river stream, which eroded and drifted parts of it downstream. A second young lioness skeleton was found besides articulated cave bear skeletons (possibly mother and her cub) on the cave bear hibernation plateau, in strongly weathered state. Here, in contrast, the carcass was scattered and deep bites and chew marks even on the skull and on the limb bones indicate scavenging activities of an unknown larger predator. Finally a third one, also close to the other two seems to be a strong lioness or small male. This is a fully articulated skeleton, the most complete find in Romania (cf. single bone remains in: SAMSON & KOVACS, 1967; TERZEA, 1965, 1978; ŞTIUCĂ, 2000).
Diedrich, C. 2009. New Upper Pleistocene steppe lion skeleton finds in the Ursilor Cave bear den, Romania.
The cave bears also often touched the slopes with their bodies, leaving many ﬁne, parallel hair impressions imprinted in the clay. Some bears died in the cave hibernation beds, including an adult and a one-year-old cub. Both skeletons were found with “scattered bone beds”on the plateaus in the distal part of the cave (Scientiﬁc Reserve), but only the cub was in a sleeping position.
This cub,a young male,was found in as light depression or cave bear bed surrounded by cub-sized scratch marks, indicating that it was the maker of the bed. A larger cave bear animal lay on the plateau close to the cub but not in any depression, suggesting either that the animal did not die during hibernation or that cave bears may not have always excavated deep depressions to sleep in. A ﬁnal possibility is its kill by a lion, since a scattered steppe lion P. leo spelaea skeleton was found on the same plateau.
Diedrich, C. 2011. An Overview of the Ichnological and Ethological Studies in the Cave Bear Den in Urscedililor Cave (Western Carpathians, Romania).
To add on to my post yesterday (without trying to be an expert), I believe that the adult cave lion and hyena mortalities are based on the heavy conflict for food and territory which is similar to taday's fight between lions and hyenas. In addition some of the adult cave lions were killed while trying to predate on cave bear cubs by an angry sow. hyenas being unable to climb are unable to access the more secure areas of the cave (especially were climbing is needed). Cave bears cubs have the higest mortality rate due to predation and because being solitary animals it makes it easier for the cubs to be taken when the sow is absent or a few cave lions ganging up one to distract and the other to go for the cub etc.
Post by grrraaahhh on Dec 20, 2011 11:32:03 GMT -9
UrsusMaritimus, quite a few literature have come out over the last year on cave bear and cave lion relations - I've been sitting on them for a little while because I am up to my neck with other literature and related material tasks. In general, it takes a lot of energy to identify, access, organize, edit, then communicate the data. RE: cave bears and cave lions, there's a lot of erroneous claims being made by people who have not read the literature - it is obvious their material access is limited or they are selective about the data they cite. I tend to think the former or maybe a combination of the two. This is a topic I think many people find interesting. Hopefully, we can get into more of the recent literature in the not too distant future.
Last Edit: Dec 20, 2011 17:44:18 GMT -9 by grrraaahhh
The prey choice of extinct cave lions Panthera spelaea was determined using bone collagen isotopic signatures in the Belgian Ardennes and the Swabian Jura between 40,000 and 25,000 years ago as well as in the Late-glacial of the northwestern Alp foreland and of the Paris Basin. More than 370 specimens of large carnivorous and herbivorous mammals from 25 sites coeval with cave lion were analyzed. The isotopic results point to an individualistic prey choice for cave lions, with some individuals more oriented on reindeer and others on young cave bears. The isotopic signatures and therefore dietary choice of cave lions did not overlap with those of cave hyenas, indicating competitive exclusion between the large predators. The most recent western European cave lions seem to have been consuming mainly reindeer until the local extirpation of this prey species, which coincides chronologically with their own extinction. This restricted prey choice may be involved in the extinction of this large predator in Western Europe.
Bocherens H., Drucker D.G., Bonjean D., Bridault A., Conard N.J., Cupillard C., Germonpre M., (...), Ziegler R. Isotopic evidence for dietary ecology of cave lion (Panthera spelaea) in North-Western Europe: Prey choice, competition and implications for extinction, (2011). Quaternary International, 245 (2), pp. 249-261.
A good article that I hope we can cover in the not so far off future. As I eluded to earlier about recent literature on this subject, there are more materials to examine most notably by Dr. Cajus G. Diedrich who has provided us a lot of recent information on cave bear and cave lion relations.