Saturday, 30 April 2016

New radiocarbon evidence on the extirpation of the spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta (Erxl.)) in northern Eurasia

Volume 96, 15 July 2014, Pages 108–116
Predators, Prey and Hominins - Celebrating the Scientific Career of Alan Turner (1947-2012)


The extirpation of spotted hyaena, Crocuta crocuta, in northern Eurasia can be seen as part of the late Quaternary megafaunal extinction event. The radiocarbon record for this species is less substantial than for other megafaunal species, but with the addition of new dates we have significantly increased the tally to approximately 100 reliable direct dates. These suggest extirpation at ca 40 ka (calendar years) in Central Europe and Russia, and ca 31 ka in north-west and southern Europe, so that the species was probably restricted to the Mediterranean and the Atlantic seaboard after 40 ka. Previous records suggesting Lateglacial or even Holocene survival (especially in eastern Asia) are not substantiated. The current estimate of 31 ka for extirpation of the spotted hyaena in northern Eurasia is close to the estimated extinction date of cave bear (Ursus spelaeus), suggesting a possible common cause. Factors likely to have impacted the spotted hyaena include, in particular, physiological cold intolerance in the face of deteriorating climate, as well as reduction of prey abundance driven by depressed vegetational productivity, and increased competition for food or space with lions, bears and people, possibly exacerbated by the arrival of modern humans.


  • Spotted hyaena Crocuta crocuta;
  • Radiocarbon dating;
  • Extinction;
  • Extirpation;
  • Palaeobiology;
  • Northern Eurasia
Corresponding author.