Scientists Determine Suspected Cause of Cave’s High Carnivore Ratio
Scientists examining a Spanish cave containing one of the largest concentrations of carnivores now believe they have uncovered the reason.
Discovered in 1991 near Madrid, Batallones-1 has long puzzled scientists with its unusually high concentration of carnivores.
With estimates that herbivore to carnivore ratio is generally about 10:1, and a fossil record that usually matches it, it’s strange that nearly 98% of the fossils in this cave came from meat eaters.
Although there have been many hypotheses as to how the animals ended up there, according to their study published in the open access journal PLOS ONE, the scientists now believe that the assortment of saber-toothed cats, hyenas, ancestors of the red panda and several other carnivores made their way into the cave intentionally.
By looking at a number of factors including formation of the cave, the orientation of the remains, and the scarcity of fractured bones or trampling marks, the researchers have determined that the animals most likely entered the cave in search of food or water believing that they could get out again. When they couldn’t, they ultimately starved to death, leaving their remains very well protected and preserved.
In contrast, the study suggests that the almost complete lack of herbivore remains may be due to a highly visible entrance that was easy to avoid.