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Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) den use and taphonomy in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Journal of Archaeological Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2007.01.012
  • Spotted Hyena
  • Crocuta Crocuta
  • Taphonomy
  • Bone Accumulation
  • Denning Behavior
  • Masai Mara
  • Kenya


Abstract Hyena taphonomy is of great importance to studies of hominid evolution, since these carnivore taxa have the highest potential both to produce large osseous assemblages and to modify existing hominid-accumulated assemblages throughout the Old World. The three extant hyena species (brown: Parahyaena brunnea; striped: Hyaena hyaena; and spotted: Crocuta crocuta) are all significant bone collectors and modifiers. Spotted hyenas generally have the lowest potential to accumulate osseous remains, and the rate of accumulation varies based upon the type of den. The present research examines the remains accumulated by spotted hyenas in Masai Mara Cave, Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. The contents of this den were collected twice by the authors, with an 11-year span interceding. The taphonomic signatures of spotted hyena interaction with bone are presented, including species and skeletal element representation, breakage patterns, tooth marks, tooth puncture, edge polish, and gastric corrosion. Other taphonomic factors examined include rodent gnawing and weathering stage. The cave den assemblage was accumulated at a rate of 30.4 identified specimens and a minimum of 4.1 prey individuals per year. In addition, the osseous remains accumulated by spotted hyenas at multiple burrow dens within the Reserve were examined for taxonomic representation and multiple taphonomic parameters. Rates of accumulation at this type of den tend to be very low, due to differential usage by spotted hyenas and the more ephemeral nature of earthen dens.

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