Late Pleistocene and Holocene whale remains (Cetacea) from Denmark and adjacent countries: Species, distribution, chronology, and trace element concentrations



We describe and review the subfossil whale bones (mammalian order Cetacea) material from the southern Scandinavian area, that is, Skagerrak, Kattegat, the inner Danish waters and the southwestern Baltic Sea. Fifteen species were identified from the subfossil records of which all, except for the bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus), have also been encountered in the modern times. Fifty-one specimens were radiocarbon dated covering 12 of the subfossil species. The dates fell in three distinct clusters with a few specimens before the last glacial maximum (LGM), a large group between LGM and the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary (ca. 17.0–11.7 cal. kyr BP), and another large group from ca. 8.0 cal. kyr BP onward. Seventeen of the radiocarbon dated specimens have been subjected to trace element analysis by Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis. Cross plots of the concentrations of Fe and Zn, and Fe and Co show that it is possible to distinguish crayfish eaters from fish/squid eaters. This can be used as a novel and independent method for the determination to species of whale remains of otherwise uncertain speciation.