The identification of trophic dynamics at Toll Cave (Barcelona, Spain) from an actualistic research on Ursus arctos in the Spanish Pyrenees
Many Eurasian karstic systems contain bone remains associated with the hibernation processes of cave bears. These faunal associations are characterized mainly by a variable number of naturally dead bear carcasses in different degrees of disarticulation and dispersion. Taphonomic studies usually report complex trophic dynamics linked to these carcasses, which are favoured by the stable environmental conditions of the caves. That is, nutrients from carcasses remain attractors for the scavengers for much longer in karstic contexts than in open-air places, which favours the intervention of several actors on the same carcass. The studies of these faunal assemblages help us understand many ecological aspects of the past, such as the ecological relationships between predators in different territories (including humans where detected). In this work, we present the results from the taphonomic studies of the Toll Cave (Moià, Barcelona, Spain). The site was discovered at the end of the 40s-50s of the last Century, yielding one of the main southern populations of the European cave bears in a peri-Mediterranean environment. Current works, which are focused on the stratigraphic unit 4 (>49,000 14C BP), have provided a significant number of bear (Ursus spelaeus) specimens with clear evidence of consumption by different predators, including hominins. The comparison of bone modifications with those obtained from a neo-taphonomic program with wild bears in the Spanish Pyrenees has allowed us to identify the main actors that acted during the formation of the archaeological assemblage, as well as demonstrate the cannibalistic habits of the cave bears and sporadic hominin activities related to the carcass preparation for transport. Our intention here is to show an example of taphonomic complexity in a specific karst context at the early Late Pleistocene, highlighting the activity of cave bears and other secondary scavengers using an actualistic approach.