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Title: Palaeoecology and palaeodiet : reconstructing adaptations in the Middle and Late Pleistocene Ursidae through dental microwear and geochemistry
Author: Pappa, Spyridoula
ISNI:       0000 0004 8498 9273
Awarding Body: Royal Holloway, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 2016
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Large carnivores are of particular relevance to our understanding of the impact of palaeoclimatic changes on the contemporary fauna, since they occupied a wide range of environments and demonstrate contrasting feeding strategies. In this respect, the modern and fossil Ursidae are a remarkably diverse group, characterized by significant differences in dental and cranial morphology between species, reflecting a range of dietary adaptations from hypercarnivory, through various omnivory strategies and into herbivory. The thesis explores the palaeodietary ecology and physiology of Middle and Late Pleistocene bears, in order to understand ursid dietary flexibility in response to changing environments. The research combines innovative techniques such as dental microwear analysis with geochemical analysis (trace elements and high-resolution Sr/Ca, Ba/Ca and Zn/Ca intra-tooth profiles) via LA-ICP-MS. The study focuses on Britain and encompasses the cave bear species Ursus deningeri, as well as the brown bear, Ursus arctos, complemented by study of the cave bear Ursus ingressus, from Greece. The study presents a new detailed dental microwear database for modern ursids, establishing a preferred methodology and revealing consistent separation into different parts of dietary ecospace for the eight extant species and also between modern brown bears from different latitudes. The extant database is then applied to British and Greek fossil bear specimens for the first time, in order to shed light on differences between cave bears and brown bears, and contrasting evidence from brown bears from different glacial and interglacials. The Late Pleistocene site of Tornewton Cave is examined in further detail. A pilot study into the geochemistry of bear teeth, as well as those of other carnivores and herbivores from the site, has revealed potential weaning and hibernation signals in bears, as well as seasonal dietary changes in both bears and some herbivores.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Palaeodiet ; Ursidae ; microwear ; Pleistocene