The University Chicago Press, 1990. — 232 p.Owls, Caves and Fossils is the first comprehensive, fully illustrated account of small mammal taphonomy. The study of small mammal remains has previously been neglected in favor of such large mammals as elephants, bovids, and carnivores, partly because the processes by which small mammals become fossils arc so poorly understood and partly because the techniques required to study them are often very laborious. Peter Andrews remedies this deficiency by analyzing the taphonomic processes significant in the preservation of small mammal faunas in caves. Fossil assemblages of the bones of small rodents and insectivores are commonly found in caves throughout the world. Since few such mammals live in caves, the bones were probably accumulated primarily by cave-roosting owls, but also by small carnivores or humans, and occasionally by transport in running water. The fossil remains of small mammals have a unique potential for yielding information about environmental and climatic changes, particularly during the Pleistocene and Holocene, but accurate interpretation of them is crucial. To this end, Andrews provides comparative modern data for more than forty species of predators that accumulate small mammal bone assemblages, with information on how to recognize characteristic traits in the fossil record. As an example, Andrews undertakes a detailed analysis of the Middle Pleistocene cave faunas from Westbury-sub-Mendip in southwest England. Westbury cave is unique in the richness of its faunas, which span a period of several hundred thousand years and provide detailed information on climatic fluctuations during the Pleistocene. As both a reference work and a demonstration of techniques and analysis, Owls, Caves and Fossils will take its place among the classics of taphonomy.
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