Understanding the Impact of Trampling on Rodent Bones



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Fernández Jalvo, Yolanda and Rueda, Lucía and Julian Fernández, Fernando and García Morato, Sara and Marín Monfort, María Dolores and Montalvo, Claudia I. and Tomassini, Rodrigo and Chazan, Michael and Horwitz, Liora K. and Andrews, Peter (2022) Understanding the Impact of Trampling on Rodent Bones. Quaternary, 5 (11). ISSN 2571-550X

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.3390/quat5010011


Experiments based on the premise of uniformitarism are an effective tool to establish patterns of taphonomic processes acting either before, or after, burial. One process that has been extensively investigated experimentally is the impact of trampling to large mammal bones. Since trampling marks caused by sedimentary friction strongly mimic cut marks made by humans using stone tools during butchery, distinguishing the origin of such modifications is especially relevant to the study of human evolution. In contrast, damage resulting from trampling on small mammal fossil bones has received less attention, despite the fact that it may solve interesting problems relating to site formation processes. While it has been observed that the impact of compression depends on the type of substrate and dryness of the skeletal elements, the fragility of small mammal bones may imply that they will break as a response to compression. Here, we have undertaken a controlled experiment using material resistance compression equipment to simulate a preliminary experiment, previously devised by one of us, on human trampling of owl pellets. Our results demonstrate that different patterns of breakage can be distinguished under wet and dry conditions in mandibles, skulls and long bones that deform or break in a consistent way. Further, small compact bones almost always remain intact, resisting breakage under compression. The pattern obtained here was applied to a Pleistocene small mammal fossil assemblage from Wonderwerk Cave (South Africa). This collection showed unusually extensive breakage and skeletal element representation that could not be entirely explained by excavation procedures or digestion by the predator. We propose that trampling was a significant factor in small mammal bone destruction at Wonderwerk Cave, partly the product of trampling caused by the raptor that introduced the microfauna into the cave, as well as by hominins and other terrestrial animals that entered the cave and trampled pellets covering the cave floor.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:experimental taphonomy; bone compression; microfauna; Wonderwerk Cave
Subjects:Sciences > Geology > Paleontology
ID Code:70885
Deposited On:01 Mar 2022 17:02
Last Modified:02 Mar 2022 08:23

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