Natural accumulations of skeletal remains represent a valuable source of ecological data for paleontologists and neontologists alike. Use of these records requires a quantitative assessment of the degree to which potential biasing factors affect how accurately ecological information from the living community is recorded in the sedimentary record. This has been a major focus in recent years for taphonomists working with marine records, yet terrestrial systems have remained virtually unstudied—particularly communities of small-bodied taxa. Our ability to assess the potential origins and effects of postmortem bias in terrestrial skeletal assemblages (both modern and fossil) has therefore been limited. Predation is a common mechanism by which small-mammal skeletal remains are concentrated; raptors regurgitate the remains of their small-mammal prey in pellets rich in skeletal material, which accumulate below long-term roosting sites, especially in protected areas such as caves and rock shelters. Here I compare small-mammal death assemblages concentrated via owl predation at Two Ledges Chamber, a long-term owl cave roost in northwestern Nevada, with data from modern trapping surveys to evaluate (1) their ecological fidelity to the modern small-mammal community, (2) the effects of temporal variation and time-averaging (over months to centuries) on live-dead agreement, and (3) how spatial averaging affects the landscape-scale picture of the small-mammal community as reconstructed from dead remains. Despite potential obstacles to the recovery of ecological information from skeletal deposits generated via predation, I find high live-dead agreement across all ecological metrics and all temporal comparisons. I also find that the effects of time-averaging (specifically increased species richness of the death assemblage) become significant only at the century scale. Finally, I combine a mixing model approach with a principal coordinates analysis to show that the owls at Two Ledges Chamber sample from all habitats present in the immediate vicinity of the cave, producing a high-fidelity snapshot of the community that is spatially integrated at the local landscape scale.
You have requested a machine translation of selected content from our databases. This functionality is provided solely for your convenience and is in no way intended to replace human translation. Neither BioOne nor the owners and publishers of the content make, and they explicitly disclaim, any express or implied representations or warranties of any kind, including, without limitation, representations and warranties as to the functionality of the translation feature or the accuracy or completeness of the translations.
Translations are not retained in our system. Your use of this feature and the translations is subject to all use restrictions contained in the Terms and Conditions of Use of the BioOne website.