Aspects of the palaeoecology of large predators, including man, during the British Upper Pleistocene, with particular emphisis on predator-prey relationships
This thesis discusses aspects of the palaeoecology of large predators, including man, during the Upper Pleistocene in Britain, with particular emphasis on predator-prey relationships. Upper Pleistocene is here taken as the Ipswichian (last) interglacial and the Devensian (last) glaciation. In addition to man, the term large predator includes lion, hyaena, wolf, leopard, bear, lynx and wolverine. The primary aim is to predict features of past predator and prey behaviour by integrating the results of modern ethological observations on similar or analogous species with the published evidence of Upper Pleistocene environments deduced from botanical, sedimentological and geomorphological investigations, and thus to extract information on trends in predator ecology and predator-prey relationships between the Ipswichian and Devensian. The study also examines the possibility that interpretations of human activity in Upper Pleistocene Britain have been founded largely on material accumulated by hyaenas, and discusses the value of examining past human behaviour from an ecological perspective in which man is regarded as one predator among many. The predictions of past behaviour are tested on vertebrate remains recovered from Upper Pleistocene deposits and how available in numerous museum collections. Much of the material derives from hyaena-accumulated bone assemblages in caves, and holds a potential wealth of information on the behaviour of this species and its predatory and scavenging activities. It is argued that the broad scope of the enquiry overcomes the shortcomings of this material which result from inadequate standards of recovery, recording and curation. The major conclusions reached in the study are: 1. That man and large mammals were seasonal occupants of Devensian Britain, on the evidence of reindeer antler remains, bear specimens in hyaena-accumulated assemblages and an analysis of tooth wear in horses. 2. That Ipswichian hyaenas found conditions more arduous than their Devensian counterparts, and may have died out at the end of Zone II of the interglacial, on the evidence of hyaena mortalities and the extent of bone consumption in hyaena-accumulated assemblages of the period. 3. That Devensian hyaenas did not tend to kill horses but instead scavenged their remains, most probably from lion kills, in view of the evidence for sexual parity in samples of horse teeth. 4. That much of the vertebrate material associated with Upper Palaeolithic industries and taken to show evidence of human economic activities is indeed the result of hyaena bone-accumulation, on the basis of comparisons with modern hyaena behaviour, and therefore inadmissable. 5. That an integration of present results with those from Europe and other parts of the world suggests that the importance of man as a member of the Pleistocene fauna may have been overemphasised.