Paleontology and Paleoenvironment

The faunal assembage identified in Bolomor Cave is an exceptional sample in order tounderstand the evolution of fossil quaternary mammals in the Mediterranean environment.

Till the moment, there is a total of twenty species of macro mammals that have been identified. The biostratigraphic sequence is characterized mainly by the presence of deer (Cervus elephus) and horse (Equus ferus), and by a more punctual record of other species like the aurochs (Bos primigenius), fallow-deer (Dama sp.), el thar (Hemitragus sp.), irish elk (Megaloceros giganteus), steppe rhinoceros (Stephanorhinus hemitoechus), wild boar (Sus scrofa), macaque (Macaca sylvanus), wild ass (Equus hydruntinus), elephant (Paleoloxodon antiquus), hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) and beaver (Castor fiber). There is a sporadic presence of carnivores in the cavity, both in anatomical representation as in level of incidence on the bone record, identifying fossil remains of Ursus arctos, Ursus tibetanus, Canis lupus, Panthera leo fossilis, Lynx pardina, Vulpes vulpes and Meles meles.

Representación faunística de la Cova del Bolomor segun las fases paleoclimáticas establecidas

Taxa representation from Bolomor Cave according to stablished Palaeoclimatic phases

With the record of species which have been documented in each level, we have worked on a climatic approximation, which together with sedimentological data and micro fauna, has been divided in different climatic phases:

Bolomor I Phase (levels XVII, XVI and XV) which reflects cool conditions with some seasonal humidity. The faunal assemblage is dominated by Cervus elaphus, Equus ferus and Hemitragus sp. We have to highlight the presence of Megaloceros giganteus which together with the first data would indicate a relative environmental humidity.

Bolomor II Phase (XIV and XIII) represents a change towards temperate-warm and humid climatic conditions. At these moments, the predominant species being Dama sp. And, after that, wild goats.

Bolomor III Phase (XII-VIII) is correspondent with a moment of humid formation which evolves towards cold and arid conditions. The faunal remains register an important increase of Equus ferus, followed by deer.

Bolomor IV Phase (levels from VII-I) close the sequence with a period of temperate climate with humid oscillations.  Identified fauna in this level is characterized by the predominance of Cervus elaphus, Equus ferus, Dama sp. and Sus scrofa. Together with these species, we also recover phalanges and dental remains of Hippopotamus amphibius and Paleoloxodon antiquus.

a) Horse mandible (Equus ferus) from level XX, b) Elephant immature mandibule (Paleoloxodon antiquus) from level XII; c)Rhinoceros fragment (Stephanorhinus hemitoechus); d) Macaca maxilla fragments (Macaca sylvana) from level XII; e) Anter fragment belonging to red deer (Cervus elaphus); f) Red deer mandible (Cervus elaphus) from level XIII.

It’s important to highlight the presence of small animals such as rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), hares (Lepus sp.), birds (Passeriformes, Galliformes, Corvidae, Columbidae, Phasianidae, Anatidae), tortoise (Testudo hermanni) and punctually, fish (Salmonidae) during all the sequence.

In general, the distribution of the different taxa during all the sequence and its relative frequencies indicate soft environmental changes in the surroundings of the site. Nevertheless, we must bear in mind that identified taxa respond to an anthropic selection of the habitat, and so, represent only part of the existent biotic community.

This taxonomic selection can give indication of the movements of human groups by the different ecosystems of the territory. In this way, in Bolomor Cave we can document, by one side, taxa related to open spaces such as Palaeoloxodon antiquus, Equus ferus, Equus hydruntinus or Bos primigenius and, on the other side, we have recovered species related to closed wooded vegetation such as Sus scrofa, Macaca sylvana, Ursus arctos, Canis lupus or Lynx pardina. Relating to this, Testudo hermanni is associated to a shrub type of vegetation without, or hardly any, arborous cover. Taxa related with steep habitats as Hemitragus cedrensis, Corvidae or Columbidae and ubiquitous species as Oryctolagus cuniculus, Cervus elaphus, Dama sp. or Vulpes vulpes have also been identified. Finally, aqueous environments (rivers or lakes) also seem to be present in the surroundings of the site according to taxa as  Hippopotamus amfhibius, Salmonidae, Anas sp. or Aythya sp., which indirectly can be related with the plain.