Fossil History of the Terrestrial Carnivora

  • Larry D. Martin


Carnivores, because of their position on the ecological pyramid, are considerably rarer than their prey. They are also often intelligent and solitary animals, so that their chances of dying in a fossilizing environment are not very good. Exceptions occur when herbivores are trapped in a situation that can also entrap carnivores. The La Brea Tar Pits in California, the most famous example of such a baited trap, have produced one of the highest numbers of fossil carnivorans found in any single locality. Cave sites are also important concentrating localities, as many carnivores use caves and fissures as lairs. Mixnitz Cave in Austria may have contained the remains of nearly 50,000 cave bears (Kurtén 1976a). Outside of such sites fossil carnivorans are rare, and many taxa are known only from dentitions. In spite of these problems, the fossil record of carnivorans is good and provides answers to questions concerning the evolution of adaptation and diversity in carnivores.


North America Late Miocene Middle Miocene Brown Bear Carnivorous Mammal 
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  • Larry D. Martin

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