Scraps from an owl’s table: — predator activity as a significant taphonomic process newly recognised from New Zealand Quaternary deposits

T. H. Worthy, R. N. Holdaway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

30 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A fossil bone deposit from a cliff flanking the Tiropahi River, Westland, South Island, New Zealand, was dated at 17,340 ± 140 radiocarbon years BP. The taphonomy suggests that the deposit was accumulated by a predator. Site characteristics, prey size and bone damage patterns (greenstick fractures and evidence of digestion) suggest the predator was the extinct or near-extinct Laughing Owl Sceloglaux albifacies. The species assemblage represented by the fossils show that Sceloglaux was an opportunistic predator whose diet included birds, bats, frogs, skulks, geckos, and fish. The dominant prey were nocturnal ground-frequenting birds, particularly shearwaters and prions. The preferred habitats of the prey species and the deposit’s age suggest that the river valley near the fossil site was forested, with areas of shrubland and grassland, during the coldest part of the Otiran Glaciation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-245
Number of pages17
JournalAlcheringa
Volume18
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Avian Quaternary fossils
  • Laughing Owl
  • New Zealand
  • Predator taphonomy
  • Sceloglaux

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