Famous Planet Earth Caves

Famous Planet Earth Caves

Volume: 1

Sophie’s Cave (Germany) - A Late Pleistocene Cave Bear Den

Indexed in: Book Citation Index, Science (BKCI-S), Social Sciences & Humanities (BKCI-SSH), EBSCO.

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The Final Late Pleistocene Cave Bear and Sporadic Carnivore (Hyena And Wolf) Den

Pp. 112-145 (34)

Cajus G. Diedrich

Abstract

About 32.000-26.000 BP the largest cave bears Ursus ingressus Rabeder et al. 2004 used the Sophie’s Cave such as other larger cave bear dens of the Zoolithen Cave, Große Teufels Cave and Geisloch Cave and others in Upper Franconia. At this time the large portal of the today’s entrance was opened. In this hall and branching areas, the cave was used for denning and birth. The Ailsbach River terrace changed first with an elevation increasing that caused periodical floods of the anterior valley oriented cave part only. Within the partly dry cave, seasonal floods cleft two more fluvial sequences, which are dominated in the first stage by sands and gravels. In the last stage, “gravel/frost brekzia/glauconite sand till series” of the latest Late Pleistocene and around the LGM (app. 32.000-16.000 BP) the floods finally transported sediment and the bones only into the Ahornloch branching halls and Passages. The large cave bears were also scavenged and predated by the three top predators (lions, hyenas and wolves) that specialized especially in boreal forests on cave bear feeding as a result of rare and disappearing valley migratory mammoth steppe game. Hyenas used the Sophie’s Cave only shortly as den in the Ahornloch Hall area and imported typical for cave dens in Europe some woolly mammooth Mammuthus primigenius (Blumenbach 1799), woolly rhinoceros Coelodonta antiquitatis (Blumenbach 1799), and Equus caballus przewalski Poljakov 1888 horse prey remains into the cave entrance halls, which bones show typical hyena caused bite/chew damage. Already before the climatic change not later then 24.000 BP, before the Last Glacial Maximium glacier extensions in Europe (LGM, 19.000 BP), with unsolved questionable “glacial signs” (?valley glaciers) in Upper Franconia and within the Sophie’s Cave, caused the extinction of the last cave bears, their top predators, and most of the boreal forest megafauna in Upper Franconia and central Europe.

Keywords:

Final Late Pleistocene, sedimentology, terrace gravel infill, Ailsbach Valley geomorphology, glacial signs, largest cave bear species, cave bear den, bone taphonomy, predators and scavengers.

Affiliation:

PaleoLogic, Research Institute, Petra Bezruce 96, CZ-26751 Zdice, Czech Republic.