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Predator-prey relationships are vital for structuring modern ecosystems, but have been especially challenging to investigate in the fossil record. Although there is abundant evidence of carnivore presence in ancient ecosystems in the form of behavioral traces (e.g., tooth marks), their fossils are rare relative to the animals they ingest. In this study, we use a large sample (n = 33) of modern Bos taurus (cow) tibia that have been processed by Canis lupus (wolf) and Panthera leo (lion) to assess whether morphology and location of tooth marks can be used to distinguish canids and felids in the fossil record. The tibia were divided into three sections (i.e., proximal, middle, distal) based upon their overall length. We developed a new categorization scheme (based upon published literature and our own observations) to characterize each tooth mark within these three regions. Our preliminary results indicate that the overall size and position of tooth marks can be used to distinguish wolf and lion behavioral traces. In particular, we find that lion and wolf differ in the manner by which they process the proximal end of cow tibia. This could indicate that lions prefer areas with higher flesh to bone ratios, which is consistent with interpretations based upon dental morphology. This study indicates that behavioral traces on fossils could be the key to unlocking predator-prey relationships in the fossil record.


This is a metadata-only record.



  • Subject
    • Biology

  • Institution
    • Dahlonega

  • Event location
    • Floor

  • Event date
    • 22 March 2019

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      David B. Patterson