The largest European lion Panthera leo spelaea (Goldfuss 1810) population from the Zoolithen Cave, Germany : specialised cave bear predators of Europe


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Remains of 13 individuals with 3/1 male/female ratio of the extinct Upper Pleistocene lion Panthera leo spelaea (Goldfuss, 1810) from the Zoolithen Cave near Burggeilenreuth (Bavaria, Germany) include the holotype skull and all paratype material. The highest mortality rate for the Zoolithen Cave lions is in their reproductive adult ages. Bite marks on lion bones or skulls are results of hyena activities, or rare cannibalism of lions under stress situations. Lions were possibly also killed in battles with cave bears during predation on hibernating bears in winter times. This cave bear hunt specialisation in caves overlaps with the ecological behaviour of cave bear feeding by Ice Age-spotted hyenas. Both largest Ice Age predators, lions and hyenas, had to specialise on feeding herbivorous cave bears in boreal forest mountainous cave rich regions, where the mammoth steppe megafauna prey was absent. This cave bear hunt by felids, and scavenging by hyenas and other large carnivores such as leopards and wolves explains why cave bears hibernated deep in to the European caves, for protection reasons against predators. Within such lion–cave bear and even lion–hyena conflicts in the caves lions must have been killed sometimes, explaining mainly the skeleton occurrences in different European caves.


Animal remains (Archaeology), Lion, Caves, Europe, Germany, Bavaria

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Europe; Germany; Bavaria

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Volume 23, Issue 2/3 42 p.