Discussion and Conclusions

Taphonomic features of Porcupine Cave bones include those characteristic of predation and wood rat accumulations of raptor pellets and carnivore scat, including acid etching and digestion of some specimens (figures 9.4, 9.5, 9.6), broken parts of bones, and abundance of small mammal taxa. There is also postmortem modification from breakage, gnawing, weathering, and excavation (DMNH 42147, figure 9.11).

From a paleopathology standpoint, the disease, trauma, and calamity evident from the fossils of Porcupine Cave fall into four categories:

1. Injury and puncture wounds, such as those exhibited in the skull of Canis latrans (DMNH 30076, figure 9.7).

2. Fractures, such as that of the metapodial (DMNH 42149, figure 9.10).

3. Infectious disease, such as the osteomyelitis exhibited in the Lepus sp. innominate (DMNH 42146, figure 9.4) and the Canis latrans femur (DMNH 26646, figure 9.9).

4. Trauma, such as that seen in the original break of the rodent (Spermophilus or Neotoma sp.) innominate (DMNH 41425, figure 9.8).

Additional examples are listed in appendix 9.1. Some specimens fit one of the criteria, while others exhibit most or all of them.

The examples discussed in this chapter add to the overall understanding of the bone material in Porcupine Cave. This first survey of the data suggests that further study of the paleo-pathology of fossils from the cave would be fruitful in determining the extent to which disease was present, how bone has responded to stress and trauma, and how animals have used the bone material as a source of calcium and nutrients. In this way, the bones of the dead become the key to understanding the living.

FIGURE 9.10 Rodentia cf. Neotoma (wood rat), DMNH 42149, metapodial from Mark's Sink. (SEM photograph by Louis H. Taylor.)

FIGURE 9.10 Rodentia cf. Neotoma (wood rat), DMNH 42149, metapodial from Mark's Sink. (SEM photograph by Louis H. Taylor.)

0 0

Post a comment