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The pleistocene dung blanket of bechan cave utah usa



The pleistocene dung blanket of bechan cave utah usa



Carnegie Museum of Natural History Special Publication (8): 267-282



Boluses of dung rich in graminoid stems dropped by a large herbivore and comparable in size and content to African elephant (Loxodonta) dung were discovered recently in Bechan Cave, southeastern Utah. Two boluses were radiocarbon dated at 11,670 and 12,900 yr B.P., respectively. They are embedded in a 255 m3 dung blanket along with fecal remains and hair of ground sloths, artiodactyls and small mammals. While no diagnostic bones of mammoth were recovered, the deposit yielded long coarse hair attributed to mammoth. This unusual discovery supports the previous report by Hansen of mammoth dung at Cowboy Cave, Utah. Both deposits constitute major finds for paleoecologists and are the most impressive discovery of their kind since the discovery in the 1930s of dry caves yielding ground sloth dung in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and west Texas. The Bechan Cave deposit accumulated during an interval of vegetation change when blue spruce and water birch declined, oak became more abundant, and the regional vegetation was sagebrush steppe. Blue spruce and water birch currently occupy higher elevations in southern Utah. Megaherbivore occupation of Bechan Cave evidently ended hundreds of years before mammoth and ground sloth (Nothrotheriops) extinction in the region, .apprx. 11,000 yr B.P.

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