Cautionary tales in the use of captive carnivore tooth mark data

Author(s): Katherine Woolard; Briana Pobiner

Year: 2017


Evidence for hominin meat acquisition in the form of butchery marks on fossil animal bones dates back to at least 2.6 million years ago. With this new dietary behavior came competition between hominins and large carnivores for animal carcasses. Identifying which carnivores hominins were interacting with would allow various models of the timing and sequence of hominin and carnivore carcass to be evaluated. However, many studies of carnivore tooth marking and damage patterns are conducted with captive carnivores, without considering if captive samples are actually comparable to wild samples. We analyzed tooth pits created by captive and free-ranging lions in Kenya using a Dino-Lite microscope and found that while tooth pit sizes are similar, frequencies are different – larger groups of carnivores generally inflict more tooth pits. Therefore we advocate caution in using captive samples as models for the frequency of tooth pits inflicted by specific carnivore species. However, as the number of tooth pits may be indicative of the number of carnivores feeding on a prey animal, tooth pit frequencies may be useful for reconstructing whether social (e.g. lion, hyena) or solitary (e.g. leopard, sabertooth) carnivores were most likely responsible for tooth marks in some fossil assemblages.

Cite this Record

Cautionary tales in the use of captive carnivore tooth mark data. Katherine Woolard, Briana Pobiner. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430371)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14925