Cave Lions were loners

Raiding cats of the Ice Age had a preference for reindeer meat

Cave lion with prey © historic (Heinrich Harder)
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Cave lions hunted alone 12, 000 years ago - and preferably after reindeer: This is the finding of researchers from the University of Tübingen. They investigated carbon and nitrogen isotopes in the bone collagen of fossil predators for their study. The new data provided valuable insights into the lifestyle of the extinct cave lions. As the scientists in the journal "Quaternary International" report, one could conclude directly on the diet of the prey.

Until about 12, 000 years ago, the big cats of Europe had a wide range of prey, including mammoths, woolly rhinos, bison, horses and reindeer. However, they had to share it with big competitors, among them cave hyenas, brown bears, wolves and, of course, humans. What exactly the big predators ate then was unclear. Analogous to today's prey spectrum of the zebreas and large antelope-eating lions in Africa, one could assume that also the cave lions prefer large prey such as primeval horses and bison.

Reindeer as a favorite loot

In fact, cavalry lions were mainly reindeer meat on the menu, the researchers found. This is also the case for these big cats to a much greater extent than for their competitors. Some lions probably also ate young cave bears. The preference

For reindeer probably lasted until the end of the ice age: The local extinction of these cold-adapted animals during the global warming about 12, 000 years ago could even have been the cause of the extinction of the European high-altitude lions.

Interestingly, the researchers discovered in the cave lions from southwestern Germany, northern Switzerland, northern France and southern Belgium, respectively, very different isotope values ​​- in contrast to the then living hyenas, which have very similar values ​​as pack animals. According to the scientists, this result shows that the cave lions were individual hunters and did not hunt in packs, such as African lions. (Quaternary International, 2011, DOI: 10.1016 / j.quaint.2011.02.023). display

(University of Tübingen, 25.10.2011 - NPO)