Mitochondrial DNA haplotypes of Devensian hyaenas from Creswell Crags, England

  • Danae R. Dodge
  • Abigail S. Bouwman
  • Paul B. Pettitt
  • Terence A. BrownEmail author
Original Paper


Spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) remains have been recovered from British Middle and Upper Pleistocene sites at intervals within the period 700–730 ka BP. Morphological studies have suggested that hyaenas of the Last Interglacial sensu stricto (Ipswichian: Marine Isotope Stage [MIS] 5e, 130–115 ka BP) and Last Glacial (Devensian: MIS 3, 61–24 ka BP) were two distinct populations, the Ipswichian hyaenas becoming extinct in Britain during MIS 5 and the Devensian ones arriving via a subsequent migration from continental Europe. However, the apparent presence of hyaenas in later MIS 5 deposits has led to the alternative suggestion that there was a southern relict population from which the Devensian hyaenas originated. We obtained ancient DNA (aDNA) sequences from four Devensian hyaena specimens from Creswell Crags, Derbyshire, dated to around 45 ka 14C BP. Each of these four specimens belonged to the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) clade A. This clade is not thought to have been present in Europe until ~360 ka BP, after the initial arrival of hyaenas in Britain. The DNA results, therefore, suggest that there were at least two waves of hyaena dispersals into Britain. The results are consistent with the repeated dispersals into Britain of another Pleistocene social carnivore, Homo sapiens.


Ancient DNA Devensian Hyaena Mitochondrial DNA Neanderthals 



We thank the NERC ORADS facility, panel members and staff including Tom Higham and Diane Baker for supporting the 14C dating of the hyaena teeth used in this study, and Mark White, co-director of the recent excavations at Kent’s Cavern, for allowing us to sample teeth from this site. Both Church Hole and Kent’s Cavern are Scheduled Ancient Monuments, and PP thanks English Heritage and HM Government Ministry of Culture, Media and Sport for granting Scheduled Monuments Consent for the excavation of these sites.

Supplementary material

12520_2012_96_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.6 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 1678 kb)


  1. Bahn P, Pettitt PB (2009) Britain’s oldest art: the Ice Age cave art of Creswell Crags. English Heritage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  2. Bouwman A, Brown TA (2002) Comparison between silica based methods for the extraction of DNA from human bones from the 18th to mid-19th century London. Ancient Biomol 4:173–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brown TA, Brown KA (2011) Biomolecular archaeology, an introduction. Wiley-Blackwell, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Currant A, Jacobi R (2001) A formal mammalian biostratigraphy for the Late Pleistocene of Britain. Quatern Sci Rev 20:1707–1716CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Garcia N, Arsuaga JL (1999) Carnivores from the early Pleistocene hominid-bearing Trinchera Dolina 6 (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain). J Hum Evol 37:415–430Google Scholar
  6. Hofreiter M, Jaenicke V, Serre D, von Haeseler A, Pääbo S (2001) DNA sequences from multiple amplifications reveal artifacts induced by cytosine deamination. Nucl Acids Res 29:4793–4799CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hofreiter M, Serre D, Rohland N, Rabeder G, Nagel D, Conard N, Münzel S, Pääbo S (2004) Lack of phylogeography in European mammals before the last glaciation. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 101:12963–12968CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Kruuk H (1972) The spotted hyaena: a study of predation and social behavior. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  9. Kurtén B (1957) Mammal migrations, Cenozoic stratigraphy, and the age of Peking Man and the Australopithecines. J Paleontol 31:215–227Google Scholar
  10. Kurtén B (1968) Pleistocene mammals of Europe. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, LondonGoogle Scholar
  11. Pettitt PB, Jacobi RM (2009) The archaeology of Creswell Crags. In: Bahn P, Pettitt PB (eds) Britain’s oldest art: the Ice Age cave art of Creswell Crags. English Heritage, London, pp 16–35Google Scholar
  12. Pettitt PB, Bahn P, Ripoll S (eds) (2007) Palaeolithic cave art at Creswell Crags in European context. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  13. Pettitt PB, Jacobi RM, Chamberlain A, Pike AWG, Schreve D, Wall I, Dinnis R, Wragg-Sykes R (2009) Excavations outside Church Hole, Creswell Crags: the first three seasons (2006–8). Trans Thoroton Soc Notts 113:35–53Google Scholar
  14. Pirnie T (2005) The faunal remains from Kent’s Cavern (Devon, UK): a zooarchaeological investigation focused on spatial distribution within the cave earth stratum. Dissertation, University of SheffieldGoogle Scholar
  15. Pruvost M, Schwarz R, Correia VB, Champlot S, Braguier S, Morel N, Fernandez-Jalvo Y, Grange T, Geigl E-M (2007) Freshly excavated fossil bones are best for amplification of ancient DNA. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 104:739–744CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Rohland N, Pollack JL, Nagel D, Beauval CÉ, Airvaux J, Pääbo S, Hofreiter M (2005) The population history of extant and extinct hyenas. Mol Biol Evol 22:2435–2445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Turner A (1981) Aspects of the palaeoecology of large predators, including Man, during the British Upper Pleistocene, with particular emphasis on predator-prey relationships. Dissertation, University of SheffieldGoogle Scholar
  18. Turner A (1995) Evidence for Pleistocene contact between the British Isles and European continent based on distributions of larger carnivores. In: Preece RC (ed) Island Britain: a Quaternary perspective. Geological Society Special Publication No 96, London, pp 141–149Google Scholar
  19. Turner A (2009) The evolution of the guild of large Carnivora of the British Isles during the Middle and Late Pleistocene. J Quatern Sci 24:991–1005CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Turner A, Antón M (1996) The giant hyaena Pachycrocuta brevirostris (Mammalia, Carnivora, Hyaenidae). Geobios 29:455–468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Werdelin L, Solounias N (1991) The Hyaenidae: taxonomy, systematics and evolution. Fossils and Strata No 30 05/31. Universistetsforlaget, OsloGoogle Scholar
  22. White MJ, Pettitt PB (2009) The demonstration of human antiquity: three rediscovered illustrations from the 1825 and 1846 excavations in Kent’s Cavern (Torquay, England). Antiquity 83:756–768Google Scholar
  23. White MJ, Pettitt PB (2011) The British Late Middle Palaeolithic: an interpretative synthesis of Neanderthal occupation at the northwestern edge of the Pleistocene world. J World Prehist 24:25–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. White MJ, Pettitt PB (2012) Ancient digs and modern myths. The age and context of the Kent’s Cavern 4 maxilla and the earliest Homo sapiens specimens in Europe. Eur J Archaeol (in press)Google Scholar
  25. White MJ, Schreve DC (2000) Island Britain–Peninsula Britain: palaeogeography, colonisation, and the Lower Palaeolithic settlement of the British Isles. Proc Prehist Soc 66:1–28Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Danae R. Dodge
    • 1
  • Abigail S. Bouwman
    • 2
    • 3
  • Paul B. Pettitt
    • 1
  • Terence A. Brown
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK
  2. 2.Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre, Faculty of Life SciencesUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK
  3. 3.Zentrum für Evolutionäre MedizinUniversität ZürichZürichSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations