Isotopic evidence for dietary ecology of cave lion (Panthera spelaea) in North-Western Europe: Prey choice, competition and implications for extinction


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January 2011


The prey choice of extinct cave lions Panthera spelaea was determined using bone collagen isotopic signatures in the Belgian Ardennes and the Swabian Jura between 40,000 and 25,000 years ago as well as in the Late-glacial of the northwestern Alp foreland and of the Paris Basin. More than 370 specimens of large carnivorous and herbivorous mammals from 25 sites coeval with cave lion were analyzed. The isotopic results point to an individualistic prey choice for cave lions, with some individuals more oriented on reindeer and others on young cave bears. The isotopic signatures and therefore dietary choice of cave lions did not overlap with those of cave hyenas, indicating competitive exclusion between the large predators. The most recent western European cave lions seem to have been consuming mainly reindeer until the local extirpation of this prey species, which coincides chronologically with their own extinction. This restricted prey choice may be involved in the extinction of this large predator in Western Europe.

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Quaternary International, Vol. 245, no. 2 (2011).