Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 449–464 | Cite as

When wildcats feed on rabbits: an experimental study to understand the taphonomic signature of European wildcats (Felis silvestris silvestris)

  • Lluís LloverasEmail author
  • Richard Thomas
  • Alessandra Cosso
  • César Pinyol
  • Jordi Nadal
Original Paper


Studies of the feeding ecology of the European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) demonstrate that leporids, mostly European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), dominate their diet in regions where they are present. The remains of wildcats have been found at Pleistocene and Holocene archaeological sites, raising the possibility that they actively accumulated leporid bones in caves and shelters shared with other terrestrial carnivores, raptors and humans. We present the first taphonomic study of rabbit remains consumed by this terrestrial carnivore, with the ultimate aim of understanding their role in bone accumulations at archaeological sites. An experimental study was carried out with a wildcat female, who was fed with nine complete rabbit carcasses. Non-ingested remains and scats were recovered for the analysis of anatomical representation, breakage and bone surface modification. This revealed that non-ingested remains and scats of the European wildcat can be discriminated from most other agents of accumulation. The referential framework provided will permit the discrimination of hominids and wildcats as agents of fossil accumulations of rabbits.


Taphonomy Wildcat European rabbit Small prey Bone accumulators 



Ll. Lloveras was funded by postdoctoral fellowships BP-A 00334 2011 and BPB-00140-2014 from the Secretaria d’Universitats i Recerca del Departament d’Economia i Coneixement de la Generalitat de Catalunya and COFUND programme (Marie Curie Actions). Financial support from research projects HAR2014-55131 from the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (MICINN) and SGR2014-108 from the Generalitat de Catalunya are gratefully acknowledged.

Supplementary material

12520_2016_364_MOESM1_ESM.jpg (1.3 mb)
Figure S1 Picture of the European wildcat involved in the experimental study. Examples of scats and non-ingested materials recovered. (JPEG 1295 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SERP, Departament de Prehistòria, Història Antiga i Arqueologia, Facultat de Geografia i HistòriaUniversitat de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.School of Archaeology and Ancient HistoryUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Storia, Scienze dell’Uomo e della FormazioneUniversità degli Studi di SassariSassariItaly
  4. 4.Centre de fauna de Vallcalent, Departament d’Agricultura, Ramaderia, Pesca, Alimentació i Medi NaturalLleidaSpain

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