Changes in the large carnivore community structure of the Judean Desert in connection to Holocene human settlement dynamics

Ignacio A. Lazagabaster*, Micka Ullman, Roi Porat, Romi Halevi, Naomi Porat, Uri Davidovich, Nimrod Marom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Investigating historical anthropogenic impacts on faunal communities is key to understanding present patterns of biodiversity and holds important implications for conservation biology. While several studies have demonstrated the human role in the extinction of large herbivores, effective methods to study human interference on large carnivores in the past are limited by the small number of carnivoran remains in the paleozoological record. Here, we integrate a systematic paleozoological survey of biogenic cave assemblages with the archaeological and paleoenvironmental records of the Judean Desert, to reveal historical changes in the large carnivore community. Our results show a late Holocene (~ 3400 years ago) faunal reassembly characterized by the diminishment of the dominant large carnivoran, the Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus sbsp. nimr), and the spread of the Syrian striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena sbsp. syriaca). We suggest that increased hunting pressure in combination with regional aridification were responsible for the decrease in the number of leopards, while the introduction of domestic animals and settlement refuse brought new scavenging opportunities for hyenas. The recent extirpation of leopards from the region has been a final note to the Holocene human impact on the ecosystem.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number3548
JournalScientific Reports
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 11 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

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