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Keywords:

  • whale;
  • neogene;
  • lesions;
  • periosteal reaction;
  • trophic interaction

ABSTRACT

There is little osteological evidence of non-lethal predation events in the archaeological or vertebrate paleontological record. A small section of Pliocene cetacean rib collected from the Yorktown Formation within the PCS Phosphate Mine (formerly Lee Creek Mine), Aurora, North Carolina, U.S.A., shows evidence of this kind of trophic interaction. In this case study, we offer a diagnosis of bone traumatic pathology in which three bone-forming lesions on the partial rib are interpreted as the reaction to a bite inflicted by a macro-predator, the first such report from a marine environment. In addition to the three well-defined lesions, a thin layer of woven bone covers much of the remaining cortical bone. The combination of the three bone-forming lesions and the thin layer of woven bone suggest the presence of an inflammatory process almost certainly caused by infection secondary to the trauma. Survival following the traumatic event was probably less than 6 weeks. The Neogene chondrichthyan fauna from this locality preserves several large predators, including Carcharocles megalodon, Carcharodon carcharias, Isurus xiphidon and Parotodus benedeni, which were all capable, at least in terms of their size, of having bitten the cetacean. Although most of the odontocetes known from the Yorktown Formation were too small to have inflicted this wound, some of the physeterids may have been large enough to have caused the lesions on the partial rib. This evidence of predation in Pliocene whale bone raises the possibility of similar lesions being found in whale bone recovered from archaeological sites. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.