Carcass damage and digested bone from mountain lions (Felis concolor): Implications for carcass persistence on landscapes as a function of prey age

Mary C Stiner, Natalie D. Munro, Montserrat Sanz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Scopus citations


This actualistic study examines the taphonomic signatures of modern free-ranging mountain lions (Felis concolor) on prey skeletal remains left at kill sites and digested bone fragments in the lions' scats. Conducted in western Texas and southeastern New Mexico (U.S.A.), the study and its outcomes are relevant to models of carcass persistence and scavenging opportunities on ancient landscapes. Mountain lions in the study area ingested disproportionate quantities of bone from very young prey. This tendency holds true irrespective of prey body size. The results meanwhile confirm a relatively mild pattern of damage to adult deer carcasses. Digestive erosion of the surfaces of bones that passed through the gut was relatively severe, but many of these bone and tooth specimens retained identifiable features. It is clear that the mountain lions quickly remove the carcasses of very young prey from the pool of potentially scavenge-able resources. The non-linear relation between bone destruction from feeding by the cats and the skeletal maturity of prey also has consequences for prey mortality patterns, specifically a bias against the representation of very young individuals. This effect is not sufficient, however, to produce a global bias to prime-adult prey because older juveniles are much less affected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)896-907
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012



  • Actualistic research
  • Prey mortality patterns
  • Puma
  • Scatological bone
  • Taphonomy
  • Zooarchaeology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Archaeology

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