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Uncovering the cave bear fauna in the Alp

CEZA has contributed to a publication revealing the former cave bear fauna in the Alps with a radiocarbon analysis (14C).

The Torrener Bärenhöhle is an alpine bear cave in the Limestone Alps near Salzburg (Austria). The entrance to this cave is located in the riverbed of a periodically flowing stream, which floods the caves during snowmelt or after heavy rainfall. These floods repeatedly destroyed the fossil layers, and the fossil remains – mainly bones of cave bears – were scattered across the entrance area of the cave.

The fossil collections have been taking place since 1924. In recent decades, numerous bones scattered across the cave floor have been collected. In this study, we carry out metric and morphological analyses of this fossil material as well as DNA analyses in order to clarify the taxonomic position of the cave bear remains.

The chronological status of the bear remains is not yet clear, as the few samples analysed so far were outside the range of 14C dating, suggesting that they are older than 49,000 cal yr BP. The following taxa are represented in small numbers: Brown bear (Ursus arctos L.), wolf (Canis lupus L.), cave lion (Panthera spelaeus Goldfuss, 1810), European bison (Bison bonasus L.) and beaver (Castor fibre L.).