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Herpetofaunal Remains from Khonkho Wankane, an Urban and Ceremonial Centre in the Southern Lake Titicaca Altiplano: Unique Behavioural Correlates to Osseous Taphonomy


  • James T. Pokines

    Corresponding author
    1. Boston University School of Medicine, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Boston, MA, USA
    • Correspondence to: Boston University School of Medicine, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, 72 E. Concord St., L1004, Boston, MA 02118, USA.


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This research reports the herpetological (reptile and amphibian) remains from Khonkho Wankane, an urban and ceremonial centre in the southern Lake Titicaca region of the Bolivian Altiplano, which fluoresced during the Late Formative period. The total n = 1710, including a minimum of six taxa and representing a significant portion of the relatively depauperate modern herpetofauna recorded for the Lake Titicaca area. A lizard of the genus Liolaemus (Tropiduridae) was identified. Amphibians are represented by Andean toad Rhinella spinulosa (Bufonidae) and by at least four taxa of frogs: [cf. Gastrotheca marsupiata (Hylidae) and Pleurodema marmorata or P. cinerea and Telmatobius spp. (Leptodactylidae)]. The latter genus does not include members of the giant variants (T. culeus) that dwell in Lake Titicaca.

The question of how these remains were incorporated into the site deposits is examined taphonomically. No indicators of human or small carnivore predation were detected. Significant spatial clustering of amphibian remains was detected, with two clusters contributing n = 1562 or 92.4% of the amphibian total (n = 1690). These concentrations also are characterised by a depressed ratio of cranial versus postcranial elements, which cannot be explained by recovery methods. These concentrations of herpetofaunal remains likely represent in-burrow deaths of species sheltering for thermoregulatory benefits away from this harsh Altiplano environment, with the lowered recovery of cranial elements hypothesised to have resulted from a lack of ossification. The bulk of herpetofaunal remains recovered therefore likely were recent intrusions into the site deposits and do not represent the residue of human exploitation during the occupation of Khonkho Wankane. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.