U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
 
Cultural - Mineral Hill Cave
Print Page


THE BONES, PART 2 - SPECIES PRESENT

The following animals have been identified from Mineral Hill Cave.



Latin Name: Antilocapra americana
Common Name: Pronghorn antelope Modern and ancient pronghorn bones.   Unlike the deer, mountain sheep, and bison, the pronghorn that existed near Mineral Hill Cave 30,000 years ago were no larger than their modern counterparts.  Left to right: Modern metapodial (left) and distal metapodial from Mineral Hill Cave;  2nd phalanges from modern (top) and Mineral Hill Cave (bottom); 1st phalanges from modern (top) and Mineral Hill Cave (bottom)

 

 

 

  

Modern and ancient pronghorn bones.   Unlike the deer, mountain sheep, and bison, the pronghorn that existed near Mineral Hill Cave 30,000 years ago were no larger than their modern counterparts.  Left to right: Modern metapodial (left) and distal metapodial from Mineral Hill Cave;  2nd phalanges from modern (top) and Mineral Hill Cave (bottom); 1st phalanges from modern (top) and Mineral Hill Cave (bottom)



Camel and Llama 1st phalanges from Yesterday's camel (the two larger bones to the left) and Large-headed llama (the two smaller bones to the right).  A variety of camels inhabited the Great Basin for millions of years before the last of them went extinct about 10,000 years ago.  These bones from Mineral Hill Cave are at least 30,000 years old. 

 

 

 

 

1st phalanges from Yesterday's camel (the two larger bones to the left) and Large-headed llama (the two smaller bones to the right).  A variety of camels inhabited the Great Basin for millions of years before the last of them went extinct about 10,000 years ago.  These bones from Mineral Hill Cave are at least 30,000 years old.



Latin Name: Ovis canadensis
Common Name: Mountain sheep
Modern mountain sheep bones compared to ancient mountain sheep bones from Mineral Hill Cave.  Mountain sheep bones are common in archaeological sites throughout the Great Basin from 10,000 to 150 years ago.   Some of the mountain sheep bones from Mineral Hill Cave are over 40,000 years old, making them the oldest sheep bones dated in the Great Basin, and some of the oldest ever found in North America.  Mountain sheep have inhabited the Great Basin for tens of thousands of years.  The sheep from Mineral Hill Cave, however, were much larger than their modern counterparts. This may be due to a combination of colder climate and abundance of nutritional forage before 10,000 years ago.  Left to right:  1st phalanges from Mineral Hill Cave (left) and modern (right); 2nd phalanges from Mineral Hill Cave (left) and modern (right); carpal from Mineral Hill Cave (left) and modern (right); distal humerus (upper arm) from Mineral Hill Cave (left) and modern (right)

 

 

 

 

Modern mountain sheep bones compared to ancient mountain sheep bones from Mineral Hill Cave.  Mountain sheep bones are common in archaeological sites throughout the Great Basin from 10,000 to 150 years ago.   Some of the mountain sheep bones from Mineral Hill Cave are over 40,000 years old, making them the oldest sheep bones dated in the Great Basin, and some of the oldest ever found in North America.  Mountain sheep have inhabited the Great Basin for tens of thousands of years.  The sheep from Mineral Hill Cave, however, were much larger than their modern counterparts. This may be due to a combination of colder climate and abundance of nutritional forage before 10,000 years ago.  Left to right:  1st phalanges from Mineral Hill Cave (left) and modern (right); 2nd phalanges from Mineral Hill Cave (left) and modern (right); carpal from Mineral Hill Cave (left) and modern (right); distal humerus (upper arm) from Mineral Hill Cave (left) and modern (right)

Mountain sheep 1st phalanges from modern and ancient specimens recovered from Mineral Hill Cave.  The mountain sheep that inhabited this portion of the Great Basin before 20,000 years ago were much larger than modern sheep.  The modern sheep phalanges are the smaller bones to the left of each of the larger, ancient specimens from Mineral Hill Cave.

 

 

 

 

 

Mountain sheep 1st phalanges from modern and ancient specimens recovered from Mineral Hill Cave.  The mountain sheep that inhabited this portion of the Great Basin before 20,000 years ago were much larger than modern sheep.  The modern sheep phalanges are the smaller bones to the left of each of the larger, ancient specimens from Mineral Hill Cave.



Latin Name: Navahoceros fricki
Common Name: Mountain deer
Foot bones from modern and ancient mule deer.  The deer that inhabited western North America before 10,000 years ago were much larger than modern mule deer.  Some researchers have classified these ancient deer as a separate genus and species (Navahoceros fricki) from modern mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus).  Other researchers classify these ancient deer as only a separate species from modern deer (Odocoileus fricki).  Deer are the least abundant large game animal recovered from Mineral Hill Cave.  This trend continued into the Holocene after 10,000 years ago: deer were very uncommon in the Great Basin compared to the numbers of mountain sheep and pronghorn until historic contact 150 years ago.  Another genus of deer, the red deer (genus Cervus) (commonly referred to as "elk" in North America) was not found in Mineral Hill Cave.  Left to right:  2nd phalanges from Mineral Hill Cave (left) and modern (right); 1st phalanges from Mineral Hill Cave (left) and modern (right) 

Foot bones from modern and ancient mule deer.  The deer that inhabited western North America before 10,000 years ago were much larger than modern mule deer.  Some researchers have classified these ancient deer as a separate genus and species (Navahoceros fricki) from modern mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus).  Other researchers classify these ancient deer as only a separate species from modern deer (Odocoileus fricki).  Deer are the least abundant large game animal recovered from Mineral Hill Cave.  This trend continued into the Holocene after 10,000 years ago: deer were very uncommon in the Great Basin compared to the numbers of mountain sheep and pronghorn until historic contact 150 years ago.  Another genus of deer, the red deer (genus Cervus) (commonly referred to as "elk" in North America) was not found in Mineral Hill Cave.  Left to right:  2nd phalanges from Mineral Hill Cave (left) and modern (right); 1st phalanges from Mineral Hill Cave (left) and modern (right)



Latin Name: Bison cf. antiquus
Common Name: American bison

Modern cow (left) and bison (right) from Mineral Hill Cave.  The bison remains from Mineral Hill Cave are much larger than modern cows and modern bison.  Some researchers classify these ancient bison as separate species from modern bison, others as separate subspecies.

 

 

 

 

 

Modern cow (left) and bison (right) from Mineral Hill Cave.  The bison remains from Mineral Hill Cave are much larger than modern cows and modern bison.  Some researchers classify these ancient bison as separate species from modern bison, others as separate subspecies.

Modern bison carpals (hand or front foot) bones (bottom row) compared to ancient bison carpals (top row) from Mineral Hill Cave.  The bison that roamed central Nevada more than 20,000 years ago were larger than modern bison.

 

 

 

 

 

Modern bison carpals (hand or front foot) bones (bottom row) compared to ancient bison carpals (top row) from Mineral Hill Cave.  The bison that roamed central Nevada more than 20,000 years ago were larger than modern bison.



Various Horses
Metacarpal of small horse, probably Equus conversidens.  Small horse bones were much more common than the bones of the larger horse species in Mineral Hill Cave.  A variety of horse species inhabited the Great Basin over the past 20 million years, and horse bones are one of the most commonly recovered animals in paleontological sites throughout this long time period.  Horses appeared to have gone extinct about 10,000 years ago in North America, although the specimens from Mineral Hill Cave are all 30,000 years old or older.

 

 

 

    

 

 

Metacarpal of small horse, probably Equus conversidens.  Small horse bones were much more common than the bones of the larger horse species in Mineral Hill Cave.  A variety of horse species inhabited the Great Basin over the past 20 million years, and horse bones are one of the most commonly recovered animals in paleontological sites throughout this long time period.  Horses appeared to have gone extinct about 10,000 years ago in North America, although the specimens from Mineral Hill Cave are all 30,000 years old or older.

2nd phalanges of horses recovered from Mineral Hill Cave.  Note the size differences amongst these specimens.

2nd phalanges of horses recovered from Mineral Hill Cave.  Note the size differences amongst these specimens.

Distal portion of metacarpals of small horse (Equus conversidens) and large horse (Equus occidentalis) from Mineral Hill Cave.

 

 

 

 

Distal portion of metacarpals of small horse (Equus conversidens) and large horse (Equus occidentalis) from Mineral Hill Cave.

 The premaxilla of a large horse.   The measurement across the tooth row in this specimen matches nicely with those of Equus occidentalis, the same large horse species identified from the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles.  This specimen is about 42,000 years old. 



Various Carnivores Various carnivore remains recovered from Mineral Hill Cave.  The coyote mandible pictured here is only 2,000 years old, although other coyote bones dated to more than 30,000 years ago.  Top row, left to right: a) coyote mandible; b, c) subadult bobcat mandibles; Bottom row, left to right: a) North American cheetah metatarsal; b) 1st phalange from a Giant short-faced bear; c) red fox mandible.

 

 

 

 

Various carnivore remains recovered from Mineral Hill Cave.  The coyote mandible pictured here is only 2,000 years old, although other coyote bones dated to more than 30,000 years ago.  Top row, left to right: a) coyote mandible; b, c) subadult bobcat mandibles; Bottom row, left to right: a) North American cheetah metatarsal; b) 1st phalange from a Giant short-faced bear; c) red fox mandible.



Cheetah and Brown Bear Metatarsal (left) from North American cheetah and 1st phalange (right) from Giant short-faced bear or brown bear.  Metatarsals from the extinct cheetah-like cat Miracinonyx closely resemble those of the modern cougar, or mountain lion.  In fact, the North American "cheetah" probably is more closely related to cougars than to African cheetahs.  The Miracinonyx specimen shown here returned an infinite radiocarbon date - it is more than 50,000 years old.  The bear phalange shown here is either from the extinct short-faced bear or a brown bear.   Short-faced bear and modern Alaskan (or kodiak) bears have phalanges that are statistically larger than modern grizzly bears.  The bear phalange from Mineral Hill Cave is much larger than the largest grizzly bear phalange in the collections of the American Museum of Natural History, and fits with the size range of known Arctodus specimens, as well as known kodiak bear specimens. There is a known record of a brown bear as large as the Alaskan brown or kodiak bear from Labor-of-Love Cave near Ely, Nevada.   The Mineral Hill Cave specimen dates to about 9,800 years ago.  This means that it is either the youngest Arctodus specimen known from North America, or it belongs to a very large brown bear as big as the kodiak bears of Alaska.

 

 

 

  

Metatarsal (left) from North American cheetah and 1st phalange (right) from Giant short-faced bear or brown bear.  Metatarsals from the extinct cheetah-like cat Miracinonyx closely resemble those of the modern cougar, or mountain lion.  In fact, the North American "cheetah" probably is more closely related to cougars than to African cheetahs.  The Miracinonyx specimen shown here returned an infinite radiocarbon date - it is more than 50,000 years old.  The bear phalange shown here is either from the extinct short-faced bear or a brown bear.   Short-faced bear and modern Alaskan (or kodiak) bears have phalanges that are statistically larger than modern grizzly bears.  The bear phalange from Mineral Hill Cave is much larger than the largest grizzly bear phalange in the collections of the American Museum of Natural History, and fits with the size range of known Arctodus specimens, as well as known kodiak bear specimens. There is a known record of a brown bear as large as the Alaskan brown or kodiak bear from Labor-of-Love Cave near Ely, Nevada.   The Mineral Hill Cave specimen dates to about 9,800 years ago.  This means that it is either the youngest Arctodus specimen known from North America, or it belongs to a very large brown bear as big as the kodiak bears of Alaska.



Latin Name: Canis lupus
Common Name: Grey wolf Lower first molar (carnassial) of the grey wolf (Canis lupus).  This specimen is from a young animal.

 

 

 

 

  

Lower first molar (carnassial) of the grey wolf (Canis lupus).  This specimen is from a young animal.



Latin Name: Mephitis mephitis
Common Name: Striped skunk Maxilla (underside of the skull) of a striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis).

 

 

 

 

 

Maxilla (underside of the skull) of a striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis).



Latin Name: Brachyprotoma obtusata
Common Name: Short-faced skunk

Latin Name: Spilogale gracilis
Common Name: Spotted skunk Skunk mandibles from Mineral Hill Cave.  The mandible on top is from the extinct short-faced skunk (Brachyprotoma).   The middle and bottom mandibles are from the spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis).   The mandible on the bottom is 3,000 years old.  A different spotted skunk mandible dated to 6,600 years ago.  The mandible of the extinct short-faced skunk probably is at least 30,000 years old.  Skunk mandibles from Mineral Hill Cave.  The mandible on top is from the extinct short-faced skunk (Brachyprotoma).   The middle and bottom mandibles are from the spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis).   The mandible on the bottom is 3,000 years old.  A different spotted skunk mandible dated to 6,600 years ago.  The mandible of the extinct short-faced skunk probably is at least 30,000 years old.

 

 

 

   

 

 Skunk mandibles from Mineral Hill Cave.  The mandible on top is from the extinct short-faced skunk (Brachyprotoma).   The middle and bottom mandibles are from the spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis).   The mandible on the bottom is 3,000 years old.  A different spotted skunk mandible dated to 6,600 years ago.  The mandible of the extinct short-faced skunk probably is at least 30,000 years old.  Skunk mandibles from Mineral Hill Cave.  The mandible on top is from the extinct short-faced skunk (Brachyprotoma).   The middle and bottom mandibles are from the spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis).   The mandible on the bottom is 3,000 years old.  A different spotted skunk mandible dated to 6,600 years ago.  The mandible of the extinct short-faced skunk probably is at least 30,000 years old.



Latin Name: Mustela frenata
Common Name: Long-tailed weasel Mandibles of the long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata) (left) and short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea) (right).  A different long-tailed weasel mandible than the one pictured here dated to 4,000 years ago.

 

 

 

Mandibles of the long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata) (left) and short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea) (right).  A different long-tailed weasel mandible than the one pictured here dated to 4,000 years ago.



Latin Name: Mustela vision
Common Name: Mink The maxillae (underneath the skull) of the mink (Mustela vision) and the short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea).   Note the obvious size difference between these two animals.

 

 

  

 

  

The maxillae (underneath the skull) of the mink (Mustela vision) and the short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea).   Note the obvious size difference between these two animals.



Latin Name: Mustela erminea
Common Name: Ermine (short-tailed weasel)Mandibles of the long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata) (left) and short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea) (right).  A different long-tailed weasel mandible than the one pictured here dated to 4,000 years ago. 
 

 

 

Mandibles of the long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata) (left) and short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea) (right).  A different long-tailed weasel mandible than the one pictured here dated to 4,000 years ago.

 The maxillae (underneath the skull) of the mink (Mustela vision) and the short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea).   Note the obvious size difference between these two animals.

 

 

 

 

The maxillae (underneath the skull) of the mink (Mustela vision) and the short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea).   Note the obvious size difference between these two animals.



Latin Name: Myotis spp.
Common Name: Myotis (bat) Bat (Myotis) bones from Mineral Hill Cave.  Those on the far left are mandibles with teeth, those in the middle row are skulls, and those to the right are arm (wing) bones.

 

 

 

  

Bat (Myotis) bones from Mineral Hill Cave.  Those on the far left are mandibles with teeth, those in the middle row are skulls, and those to the right are arm (wing) bones.



Latin Name: Sylvilagus spp.
Common Name: Cottontail rabbit

Latin Name: Lepus townsendii
Common Name: White-tailed jackrabbit Jackrabbit (Lepus sp.) and cottontail (Sylvilagus sp.) bones from Mineral Hill Cave.  On the left: cottontail (top) and hare (bottom) mandibles.  On the right: cottontail (top) and hare (bottom) innominates.

 

 


 

 

Jackrabbit (Lepus sp.) and cottontail (Sylvilagus sp.) bones from Mineral Hill Cave.  On the left: cottontail (top) and hare (bottom) mandibles.  On the right: cottontail (top) and hare (bottom) innominates.

Various bones of the jackrabbit (Lepus sp.) and cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus sp.) from Mineral Hill Cave.  From left to right: humeri of the hare (left) and cottontail (right); ulnae of the hare (left, broken) and cottontail (right); radii of the hare (left) and cottontail (right).

 

 

 

 

 

Various bones of the jackrabbit (Lepus sp.) and cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus sp.) from Mineral Hill Cave.  From left to right: humeri of the hare (left) and cottontail (right); ulnae of the hare (left, broken) and cottontail (right); radii of the hare (left) and cottontail (right).

Various bones of the hare (Lepus sp.) and cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus sp.) from Mineral Hill Cave.  Top row, left to right: hare proximal femur, cottontail proximal femur, proximal hare tibia, distal hare tibia, cottontail tibia.  Bottom row, left to right: hare calcaneus, cottontail calcaneus, hare astragalus, cottontail astragalus.

 

 

  

 

 

Various bones of the hare (Lepus sp.) and cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus sp.) from Mineral Hill Cave.  Top row, left to right: hare proximal femur, cottontail proximal femur, proximal hare tibia, distal hare tibia, cottontail tibia.  Bottom row, left to right: hare calcaneus, cottontail calcaneus, hare astragalus, cottontail astragalus.



Latin Name: Ochotona princeps
Common Name: Pika  Pika mandibles from Mineral Hill Cave.  Pika do not inhabit this part of the Great Basin today.  The nearest modern pika populations occur in the Ruby Mountains near Elko, about 35 miles to the northeast.  It is probably too hot and dry for pika to survive near Mineral Hill Cave today, and their presence in large numbers in the cave indicates a cooler and moister climate in the past.

 

 

 

 

 

Pika mandibles from Mineral Hill Cave.  Pika do not inhabit this part of the Great Basin today.  The nearest modern pika populations occur in the Ruby Mountains near Elko, about 35 miles to the northeast.  It is probably too hot and dry for pika to survive near Mineral Hill Cave today, and their presence in large numbers in the cave indicates a cooler and moister climate in the past. 



Latin Name: Erethizon dorsatum
Common Name: Porcupine Maxilla (top) and mandible (bottom) of porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) from Mineral Hill Cave.  The porcupine mandible is about 4,000 years old. 

 

 

 

 

Maxilla (top) and mandible (bottom) of porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) from Mineral Hill Cave.  The porcupine mandible is about 4,000 years old.



Latin Name: Taxidea taxus
Common Name: Badger Badger (Taxidea taxus) maxilla (above) and mandible (below).  The mandible dated to 11,300 years ago.

 

  

  

 

Badger (Taxidea taxus) maxilla (above) and mandible (below).  The mandible dated to 11,300 years ago.



Latin Name: Marmota flaviventris
Common Name: Yellow-bellied marmot Two yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris) mandibles from Mineral Hill Cave.  Unlike the large mammals, marmots are well represented by all skeletal parts of the body.  In addition, most of the marmot bones are complete, although some do show evidence of carnivore or raptor (birds of prey) puncture marks.  This indicates that marmots once actively lived (and died) inside the cave.  Marmots are the likely culprits of the extensive disturbance caused to the cave sediments in the past.  Many marmot burrows, full of marmot bones, were seen during the excavations.

 

 

 

 

 

Two yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris) mandibles from Mineral Hill Cave.  Unlike the large mammals, marmots are well represented by all skeletal parts of the body.  In addition, most of the marmot bones are complete, although some do show evidence of carnivore or raptor (birds of prey) puncture marks.  This indicates that marmots once actively lived (and died) inside the cave.  Marmots are the likely culprits of the extensive disturbance caused to the cave sediments in the past.  Many marmot burrows, full of marmot bones, were seen during the excavations.

Two mandibles of the marmot (Marmota flaviventris).

 

 

 

 

 

Two mandibles of the marmot (Marmota flaviventris).

Maxilla of a marmot (Marmota flaviventris).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maxilla of a marmot (Marmota flaviventris).

Various marmot (Marmota flaviventris) bones from Mineral Hill Cave.  Top row, left to right: sacrum, calcaneus, astragalus.  Bottom row, left to right: innominate, femur, tibia, humerus, ulna, radius, scapula.

 

 

 

 

 

Various marmot (Marmota flaviventris) bones from Mineral Hill Cave.  Top row, left to right: sacrum, calcaneus, astragalus.  Bottom row, left to right: innominate, femur, tibia, humerus, ulna, radius, scapula.




The reptiles and birds are currently being identified, and will be added to this page as soon as these data become available. In addition, photos of those species currently not available will be added shortly.


Latin Name:
Common Name:
Odocoileus sp.
Mule/White-Tailed Deer
Brachylagus idahoensis
Pygmy rabbit
Thomomys bottae
Southern pocket gopher
Thomomys talpoides
Northern pocket gopher
Perognathus parvus
Great Basin pocket mouse
Lemmiscus curtatus
Sagebrush vole
Microtus sp.
Mountain vole
Neotoma cinerea
Bushy-tailed woodrat
Neotoma lepida
Desert woodrat
Peromyscus maniculatus
Deer mouse
Spermophilus beldingi/elegans
Belding ground squirrel
Spermophilus lateralis
Golden-mantled ground squirrel
Spermophilus townsendii
Townsend ground squirrel
Tamius minimus
Least chipmunk
Oncorhynchus clarki
Lahontan cutthroat trout
Sorex sp.
Shrew
Crotaphytus sp.
Collard Lizard
Gambelia sp.
Leopard Lizard
Cnemidophorus sp.
Whiptail
Phrynosoma hernandezi/douglasi
Mountain/Pigmy Shorthorned Lizard
Phrynosoma platyrhinos
Desert Horned Lizard
Uta sp.
Side-Blotched Lizard
Sceloporus sp.
Spiny Lizard
Euneces sp.
Skink
Pituophis melanoleucus
Pine-Gopher Snake
Masticophis sp.
Whipsnake (Coachwhip)
Coluber constrictor
Racer
Rhinocheilus lecontei
Long-nosed snake
Thamnophis sp.
Garter Snake
Hypsiglena torquata
Night Snake
Crotalus sp.
Rattlesnake
Charina bottae
Rubber Boa
cf. Buteogallus fragilis
Fragile Eagle
Aquila chrysaetos
Golden Eagle
Buteo jamaicensis
Red-Tailed Hawk
Asio flammeus
Short-Eared Owl
Falco mexicanus
Prairie Falcon
Falco sparverius
American Kestrel
Centrocercus urophasianus
Sage Grouse
cf. Dendragapus obscurus
Blue Grouse
Tympanuchus phasianellus
Sharp-Tailed Grouse
Sygnus columbianus
Tundra Swan
Corvus corax
Raven
Gymnorhinus cyanocephala
Piñon Jay
Pica pica
Black-Billed Magpie
Turdus migratorius
American Robin
Zenaida macroura
Mourning Dove

History of Research at Mineral Hill Cave
To the Lab ....
The Bones, Part 1 - Preservation, Age & Origin
More on Mineral Hill Cave - Workshop Paper
Mineral Hill Cave [Monograph] 

Mineral Hill Cave Introduction Home Page


 
Last updated: 12-14-2007