Recent cheetah (acinonyx jubatus) kills as carnivore “Feeding Hubs”: A taphonomic study of prey size and age differences

Liora Kolska Horwitz, Charlene Bissett, James Brink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Here we report on the taphonomy of 29 lower jaws recovered from 25 recent cheetah kill assemblages collected in the Mountain Zebra National Park (MZNP, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa). Cheetah kills commonly attract other carnivores and so serve as “feeding hubs”. As only a limited number of carnivores were present in MZNP at the time of this study, we could constrain the potential sources of taphonomic damage to cheetahs, black-backed jackals and brown hyaenas. The collected jaws derive from eight different prey species that differ in body weight as well as age (adult versus juvenile). Patterns of bone damage were examined for three different portions of the mandible: the anterior portion (incisor-diastema region), the mandible corpus and the posterior mandible (gonion, ramus, mandible condyle, coronoid process). Surface micro-damage was also scored. Statistically significant differences in the extent of taphonomic damage was found in the posterior portion of the mandible as well as the mandible corpus between large-sized prey species and medium to small-sized prey, but no differences were found in damage intensity in the anterior portion of the mandible. Surprisingly no significant age-related differences were found between adults and juveniles in the extent of mandibular damage, but sample sizes are small. Dimensions of pits, punctures and scores on all jaws studied (irrespective of species) indicate the primary activity of a small-sized canid (jackal) and/or medium-sized felid (cheetah), with secondary input of a large-sized carnivore (hyaena). Though sample sizes examined are small, this offers a promising approach for the investigation of inter-specific taphonomic signatures on prey carcasses from carnivore “feeding hubs”.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-12
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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  • Bone surface modifications
  • Felid
  • Mandible
  • Sequence of bone destruction


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