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Halle (Saale), Germany

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. © 2011 Taylor & Francis.

Remains from at least seven individuals of the Late Pleistocene Ice Age spotted hyena Crocuta crocuta spelaea (Goldfuss, 1823) from the Teufelskammer Cave in the Neandertal valley (North Rhine-Westphalia, northwest Germany) are described. The small cave was a well-frequented hyena den of the Early to Middle Late Pleistocene which was only 100m from the famous small Feldhofer Cave, where the first Neandertal human skeleton was found. The high amount of hyena bone material (37%) and its strongly chewed and incomplete prey remains of the mixed mammoth steppe and boreal forest megafauna prove one more of 11 recently known hyena den caves in the Rhenish Massif. Hyenas and cave bears have used the cave, but Neandertal humans lived possibly not at the same time in the same valley. Although hyenas occupied mainly the smaller caves such as the Teufelskammer Cave, humans preferred large portal cave entrances such as in the Neandertal valley with the Small Feldhofer Cave. © 2011 Taylor & Francis.

The classical descriptions of Middle Triassic marine Placodus gigas Agassiz, 1833 (Reptilia) from the Germanic Basin of central Europe as being shell-crushing durophagous placodontids are revised in this paper through analyses in convergent anatomy. In particular, the jaw morphologies of three placodontid genera, Paraplacodus, Placodus and Cyamodus, are compared to those of dugongs (Mammalia) such as the central European Tertiary Halitherium schinzii and the modern Dugong dugon of the Arabian Gulf. The anatomies of Paraplacodus, Placodus and Cyamodus exhibit convergences to Halitherium and Dugong. Whereas mammalian dugongs developed pachyostotic thoracic ribs to enhance their body weight, the placodontid reptiles achieved a similar result in different ways: Paraplacodus developed enlarged thoracic ribs; Placodus had pachyostotic gastral ribs, and Cyamodus had a thoracic osteoderm shield. The teeth of the placodontids are also convergent with those of Halitherium and Dugong in their general function and jaw morphology. Whereas Halitherium and the modern Dugong possess a horny oral pad and counterpart, and a specialized rasp-like tongue with which to grind the seagrass and its roots, placodontids had large teeth that covered the whole of their upper and lower jaws forming a similar crushing or grinding pad. Both of the extinct groups must have fed on sea-plants, as does the modern Dugong, although Halitherium possibly fed on both seagrass and macroalgae. A study of the wear stages of many Placodus teeth, skulls and jaws has revealed a large proportion of highly worn anterior teeth, indicating a usage similar to that of the procumbent front teeth of modern Dugong which are used to scrape plant roots from the sea-floor. In contrast, highly worn (wear stage 3) teeth are rare (0.5%) amongst all other upper palatal, maxillary, or lower-jaw dentary teeth, suggesting a relatively soft diet. Placodus must have used their broadly spaced anterior teeth, to dig macroalgae from carbonate sands in shallow marine, sand bar environments; indirect evidence for the existence of such environments is provided by the benthic communities of the Germanic Basin and the northern Tethys. Sea-plants would have been only crushed and swallowed by the placodontids and not chewed with jaw rotation, in a similar feeding strategy to that used by modern Dugong feeding on seagrass. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

In the greenhouse world of the Early Upper Cretaceous of Europe giant cephalopod shells of the hemibenthic ammonite Puzosia formed huge accumulations. Their shells indicate adaptations in the body chamber morphology depending on the environment. On the sea floor, deposited ammonite shells scoured up to 50 cm depth which caught more and more large shells over extended periods of time. They built up to five square meter extended scour troughs in which the shells are enriched in chain-, fan- and fan layer orders with a maximum accumulation of 24 cephalopods. Between these hundreds of other macrofaunal remains accumulated. The ammonite shells were benthic islands and minibiotopes in carbonate soft- to firm ground environments along a submarine swell in the southern North Sea Basin of Central Europe. The empty shells encrusted by different epizoans sheltered and protected also crustaceans, which undermined the empty shells by bioturbation. Small and extremely rare squamate reptiles of the marine Dolichosaurus longicollis possibly took shelter or fed within these unique benthic submarine depression "islands".

European leopard sites in Europe demonstrate Early/Middle Pleistocene out of Africa lowland, and Late Pleistocene Asian alpine migrations being driven by climatic changes. Four different European Pleistocene subspecies are known. The final European Late Pleistocene "Ice Age leopard" Panthera pardus spelaea (Bächler, 1936) is validated taxonomically. The skull shows heavy signs of sexual dimorphism with closest cranial characters to the Caucasian Panthera pardus ciscaucasica (Persian leopard). Late Pleistocene leopards were distributed northernmost, up to S-England with the youngest stratigraphic records by skeletons and cave art in the MIS 2/3 (about 32,000-26,000BP). The oldest leopard painting left by Late Palaeolithics (Aurignacians/Gravettians) in the Chauvet Cave (S-France) allows the reconstruction of the Ice Age leopard fur spot pattern being close to the snow or Caucasian leopards. The last Ice Age glacial leopard habitat was the mountain/alpine boreal forest (not mammoth steppe lowland), where those hunted even larger prey such as alpine game (Ibex, Chamois). Into some lairs, those imported their prey by short-term cave dwelling (e.g. Baumann's Cave, Harz Mountains, Germany). Only Eurasian Ice Age leopards specialized, similar as other Late Pleistocene large felids (steppe lions), on cave bear predation/scavenging partly very deep in caves. In Vjetrenica Cave (Dinarid Mountains, Bosnia Herzegovina), four adult leopards (two males/two females) of the MIS 3 were found about two km deep from the entrance in a cave bear den, near to one cave bear skeleton, that remained articulated in its nest. Leopards died there, partly being trapped by raising water levels of an active ponor stream, but seem to have been killed possibly either, similar as for lions known, in battles with cave bears in several cave bear den sites of Europe (e.g. Baumann's Cave, Wildkirchli Cave, Vjetrenica Cave). At other large cave sites, with overlap of hyena, wolf and dhole dens at the cave entrances, leopard bones with bite damages indicate their remains to have been imported and consumed by predators in alpine regions due to reduced prey availability. The best models for the competition/taphonomy of large predators - felids, hyenids, canids - within large cave bear dens of Europe is represented in combination of the Zoolithen Cave and Vjetrenica Cave taphonomy. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

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