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New study on Pleistocene cave lion and hyena interaction

Australia Richardrli Offline
Wildanimal Enthusiast

A new paper published in February this year by Dr. Diedrich on the fierce competion for food and living space between cave hyenas and cave lions in late Pleistocene Europe. Europe certainly was one of a hell place during the last Ice Age!

GuateGojira Offline
Expert & Researcher

No more than present Africa, when these antagonistic situations are the bread of every new day.

Thanks for the document, by the way. I will read it. What is very interesting is that some of the largest lions have been found with bite marks of hyenas. Could be this the result of scavenging of dead males after intraspecific fights, or these giant hyenas simple don't fear the lions too much as modern ones?

When I read the document, these questions will be cleared.
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Netherlands peter Offline
Expert & Researcher
( This post was last modified: 07-30-2020, 08:23 PM by peter )

Richardrli\ dateline='\'1398348640' Wrote: A new paper published in February this year by Dr. Diedrich on the fierce competion for food and living space between cave hyenas and cave lions in late Pleistocene Europe. Europe certainly was one of a hell place during the last Ice Age! 

Very interesting read. Much appreciated, Richard. This is what we want. 

Diedrich's conclusions seem a bit tentative in some respects, but it's the best he could do from bones only. Analogy might have added a bit more, but this, apart from speculation, would have resulted in too many detours.

If we want to know a bit more on steppe lions, cave bears and hyenas, we could go to Russia (tigers and bears) and Africa (lions and hyenas).

In tigers and bears, it isn't easy to find patterns. In some regions, brown bears are not hunted at all, whereas they are in others. Tkachenko, in two different studies, got to very different conclusions than other researchers regarding tigers and bears (both black and brown). Could have been a result of local conditions and could have been a result of specialisation of some tigers and bears.

We do know bears are more often hunted by male tigers and we also know even these specialists avoid adult male brown bears. I know of a number of exceptions, but that's what they were. We also know some male brown bears follow and sometimes hunt tigresses with cubs.

When we use food to describe a relation, the conclusion is large beats small. Risks are avoided, but in some years males meet and clash. Those working in Russia agree the outcome of an encounter is close to unpredictable, although prime male bears (at about 260 kg.) have a significant weight advantage on male tigers (190 kg.).  

In lions and hyenas, most interactions are between groups, not individuals. This points towards turf wars. Food, I think, isn't the real issue. It's about territory and property rights. The outcome of every battle seems to depend on total weight. Pride males target individual hyenas at times because they can and because it affects the balance. Even when severely outweighed, males do not seem to be targeted by hyenas.   

Returning to Pleistocene Europe.

After the last glacial maximum about 20.000 years ago, conditions rapidly changed. About 10.000 years ago, most parts were covered by forests. As these were not suited for the animals hunted by lions, they would have withdrawn from forested regions (most of northern and central Europe).

My guess is they would have moved to food. As large herbivores would have selected elevated regions close to mountain ranges, lions and hyenas would have followed. In winter, however, they would have turned to alternative food sources. Like hibernating cave bears.

This, however, would have been a dangerous undertaking. If competition of hyenas and humans is added, lions probably moved out of human-determined landscapes in the end. Retreating to less favourable conditions and competing with hyenas, they would have retreated to less favourable regions.

Europe could have been an arena, but only at places where all participants would have met in some conditions. As predators usually meet at food and immature bears offer plenty of it, caves would have been selected.

I was a bit surprised to read lion battlegroups would have consisted of females only, as males today assist when the reward is substantial. The absence of male bones in caves points towards guards at the entrance and the only reason would have been hyenas. When both would have hunted immature bears, chances are their object of desire would have been disturbed. This, of course, would have had an effect on the outcome of the hunt. It could explain some of the casualties suffered, as mature bears (both sexes), sizewise, would have been a match for even a large male lion.
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United States Stripedlion2 Offline

Peter do you have a link for the study between brown bears and tigers?

Netherlands peter Offline
Expert & Researcher
( This post was last modified: 07-31-2020, 06:14 AM by peter )

(07-30-2020, 12:53 PM)Stripedlion2 Wrote: Peter do you have a link for the study between brown bears and tigers?


As you seem interested in both Pleistocene big cats and the relationship between tigers and bears, I decided for a summary on what we have. Before I start, it's important to realize Wildfact is a large forum. There's a lot of information in many different threads. 

My first advice is to read as much as you can. The second is to contact mods when you have specific questions. 

a - Bears and tigers 

Bears and tigers co-exist in Sumatra, most of southeast Asia, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, northeastern China and southeastern Russia. The best thread to find (recent) information on the way they interact is the tiger extinction thread. Unfortunately, it's a long thread that doesn't have an index. I'm working on it, but it will take some time to finish it. You have, in other words, no option but to read all pages. A crime for members interested in birds, but not too big a punishment for those interested in tigers. 

b - Brown bears and tigers 

If you're interested in interactions between brown bears and tigers in particular, my advice is to start with an old thread in AVA (now Tapatalk, I think): 'Male brown bears are not out of the predatory reach of male tigers if of similar size'. That thread has a lot of debates as well as good information on the way bears and tigers interact. 

In 2008, the Russians started 'The Amur Tiger Programme'. The information they offer is based on observations only (no debates, that is). A must of everyone interested in bears and tigers today, I think.  

The tiger extinction thread also has quite a bit of information on brown bears and tigers. Most posts are based on recent documents, but I also used information found in 'Die Säugetiere der Sowjetunion', Band III, V.G. Heptner and A.A. Sludskij (German translation, Jena, 1980), 'Der Tiger', V. Mazak (German translation, Wittenberg Lutherstadt, third edition, 1983) as well as a few others. 

You can also find information in 'Carnivoraforum'. Most threads on brown bears and tigers have quite a few debates. Last but not least is 'Shaggygod'. This forum has good information on bears.  

c - Pleistocene big cats

Wildfact has a number of threads dedicated to Pleistocene big cats, but you can also find information in the tiger extinction thread. Some years ago, 'Late Pleistocene Felidae remains (Mammalia, Carnivora) from Geographical Society Cave in the Russian Far East' (G.J. Baryshnikov, 2016) was discussed in that thread. Here's an overview of what I remember. 

About 40,000 - 50,000 years ago, caves in southeastern Russia were used by different species of large carnivores, including lions and tigers. Although it's impossible to determine if 'cave lions' and tigers co-existed, it's clear both species used caves. The lion bones in these caves were smaller than lion bones found in western Siberia and Europe. In the Middle and Late Pleistocene, lions lost quite a bit of size in Europe and, in particular, eastern Siberia. Although they, sizewise, adapted, lions completely disappeared in the Late Pleistocene.    

The tiger bones found in the Russian Far East suggest tigers living in the Russian Far East about 40,000 years ago more or less compared to today's Amur tigers. Sizewise, there was little to choose between both. 

As to the size of lions and tigers in the Russian Far East in the Late Pleistocene. The lion bones found were larger than those of tigers living in that part of Asia. If they co-existed, chances are tigers, for this reason, would have avoided them. Hyenas, on the other hand, did not: evidence of their presence was found on quite many lion bones.

As to the size of male lions living in the Late Pleistocene. Carin Gross wrote 'Das Skelett des Höhlenlöwen (Panthera leo spelaea, Goldfuss, 1810) aus Siegdorf/Ldkr. Traunstein im Vergleich mit anderen Funden aus Deutschland und den Niederländen' (München, 1991 or thereabout - the thesis is undated). She concluded that cave lions in northwestern and southwestern Europe, depending on region and geological age, were 5-10% larger than today's lions. In weight, however, the difference would have been more pronounced.  

Bones found in the northeastern part of China suggest both lions and tigers were larger than their relatives living in what's now the Russian Far East. This suggests the conditions in northeastern China could have been better.

d - Further reading and questions

There's an interesting article about cave lions in northeastern Russia: 'The Pleistocene lion, Panthera spelaea (Carnivora, Felidae) from Yakutia, Russia' of Baryshnikov (GF) and Boeskorov (G). It was published in Cranium (1), 2001 (pp. 7-24).  

I wrote an 8-page summary of 'Late Pleistocene remains (Mammalia, Carnivora) from Geographical Society Cave in the Russian Far East'  (G.F. Baryshnikov, 2016 - see above). It was posted in the tiger extinction thread in 2017. 

If you have questions on Pleistocene big cats, contact GrizzlyClaws and Tigerluver.
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United States Stripedlion2 Offline

Wow that’s a lot of great info I will definitely read it,thank you.

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