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Social boundaries, territoriality, and the cultural ecology of artiodactyl hunting in prehistoric central California

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Abstract

Territoriality often arises as a way to ensure access to scarce or unevenly distributed resources. An unintended consequence, however, is a shift in the availability of other resources. We use Geographical Information Systems-based models to examine how political circumscription from territorial boundary defense affected human hunting decisions for three artiodactyl species: elk (Cervus elaphus nannodes), deer (Odocoileus hemionus), and pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) in Central California, USA. Habitat suitability for each species is compared to a database of 189 archaeofaunal assemblages from the same area and deer are found to have been hunted to a greater extent than expected. Three potential (non-mutually exclusive) causes for the disagreement between predicted and observed artiodactyl frequencies are examined: resource depression, relative encounter rates, and political circumscription. We find no decline in the relative abundances of elk and pronghorn through time relative to deer or in all artiodactyls relative to lower-ranked mammalian species. Instead, the herding behavior and mobility of pronghorn and elk, in combination with vigorously-defended political boundaries, may have made hunting opportunities for these species unpredictable and opportunistic, while deer, who occupy small home ranges, are not affected by territorial boundaries leading to an over-abundance of deer bone in the archaeological record.

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... the year (Whitaker et al. 2017). They avoid soft wet ground because unlike mule deer and elk they lack dew claws, which provide traction in wet environments (Whitaker et al. 2017). ...
... the year (Whitaker et al. 2017). They avoid soft wet ground because unlike mule deer and elk they lack dew claws, which provide traction in wet environments (Whitaker et al. 2017). Collins (2016) tracked pronghorn in the northern Great Basin and demonstrated that they follow north-south migration routes. ...
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Thesis
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The California fisheries provide an excellent case for testing the ability of Hardin's model to explain the origin and essential nature of resource problems. The waters off the California coast are the best-studied of any oceanic ecosystem in the world. The records of the region's climate date from the beginning of United States occupation in the 1840s. It is possible thus to reconstruct the ecological history of the region's fisheries to understand why fishery problems came into public view when they did, and to analyze the impact of human responses to those problems. The extant records permit comparison of that history with what people thought was happening and how their perceptions influenced their actions. -Author
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Parents can benefit their offspring by conserving resources that the offspring stand to inherit. Thus, inheritance of resources should promote the evolution of propensities to conserve. But inheritance also has another, less obvious effect: it can reduce the fertility of the conserver's grandchildren, thus reducing the expected number of great-grandchildren. Consequently, inheritance of resources promotes the evolution of conservation less than might be supposed.
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Zooarchaeological analyses have suggested a possible case of late Holocene resource depression in California tule elk (Cervus elaphus nannodes). We develop and conduct a preliminary independent test of this here based on trends in genetic diversity derived from ancient DNA extracted from archaeological elk bone. Mitochondrial DNA sequence data from 24 tule elk temporally dispersed across the late Holocene deposits of the Emeryville Shellmound, California, provide provisional support for a decline in genetic diversity and a population bottleneck beginning about 1600 B.P. Final confirmation of this pattern must await complete replication of the sequences. Stable isotope analyses of the elk bone provide a record of change in the terrestrial environment across the period of deposition and no suggestion that climate change may have played a role in an elk population decline. The analysis has implications for our understanding of change in human behavior and biology during late Holocene of central California, the methodology of resource depression analyses, and the conservation biology of tule elk.
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Behavioral depression is a decline in prey availability because of enhanced alert response, movement away from areas, increased social behavior, and other responses to predators. This form of resource depression is an alternative hypothesis to be contrasted to over-exploitation that potentially explains a decrease in hunting efficiency over time should the zooarchaeologist observe a decline in the relative abundance of remains of high-rank prey. Gregarious ungulates, such as many North American cervids, may exhibit such behavioral responses under predation. The white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), one of the most common high-rank prey animals from Holocene archaeological sites in eastern North America, is less gregarious, more r-selected, and exhibits greater home-range fidelity than other cervids. As a result, whitetails are less likely to exhibit behavioral depression than other North American ungulates, which may explain their common occurrence in Holocene archaeological faunas, such as that from the Eagle's Ridge site in southeast Texas where resource depression appears to have occurred from 4,500 to 1,500 years ago. The behavioral ecology of ungulate species should be considered on a case-by-case basis to develop testable hypotheses about prehistoric human predation.
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Resource depression is often assumed to result from the over-exploitation of a prey species leading to declines in its population, and therefore availability, to human hunters. However, two other forms of resource depression are noted in the ecological literature: behavioral and micro-habitat depression. Data presented in this paper demonstrate resource depression of cormorants (Phalacrocorax spp.), a coastally breeding and semi-pelagic bird genus, at a coastal site in northern California. Citing modern cormorant behavior and a lack of evidence for intensive rookery exploitation, it is argued that the observed resource depression resulted from changes in cormorant behavior that decreased encounter rates for human hunters. Such behavioral depression is cited as a buffer to the extirpation of prey in mainland settings.
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Late Holocene archaeological vertebrate faunas from the Sacramento Valley of north-central California document dramatic changes through time in the relative abundances of large- and small-sized species. The abundances of medium and large mammals decrease significantly through time relative to small resident fishes. When seasonal and spatial variability is held constant, significant decreases also exist in the abundances of large anadromous fishes relative to small resident fishes. These patterns support models of resource intensification posited for central California, which suggest that substantial decreases in foraging efficiency occurred during the late Holocene.
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By defining the area of economic influence associated with a given archaeological site, valuable information can be obtained about human occupation patterns, whilst differentiation of the surrounding biotopes facilitates research into the adaptive relationship between subsistence strategy and resource availability. Despite the inherent potential of this type of analysis, its development comes up against important conceptual and methodological limitations. The present article analyses the possibility of using optimal foraging theory, as representative of the hunting behaviour of hunter–gatherer groups, in the accurate objective estimation of the catchment areas of a site. The obtained results are applied to the study of the reasons behind the geographical site specialisations observed in eastern Cantabria, Spain during the Magdalenian.
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An understanding of animal behavior is essential to any study of population ecology. The dynamics of a population, including changes in natality, mortality, density and structure are strongly influenced by behavioral elements such as mobility, territoriality and social organization. These elements of behavior have been investigated for the Columbian black-tailed deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus (Richardson), in Lake County, California. The findings for this area, with comparative data from the literature on Odocoileus and, where appropriate, other Cervidae, form the body of this report. The present study was made in the north coast ranges of California, about five miles southwest of Lakeport in the Scott Creek drainage. Work in this area was begun in 1948. Detailed studies of behavior were carried out in the period 1951 to 1953, with further checks being made in the summers of 1954 and 1955. In the study region the principal plant complex is chaparral. This is an assemblage of fire-adapted shrubs, which respond to burning either by sprouting from the root crown, or by having seeds that are stimulated to germinate by fire. In this area the chaparral is broken into distinct north and south exposure aspects, the former dominated by interior live oak ( Quercus wislizenii ) and the latter by chamise ( Adenostema fasciculatum ). Many other species of the same general growth form also occur in smaller numbers. Large fires have frequently swept the region since white settlement about a century ago. The south-facing slopes, being more warm and dry, burn more often and more completely than the north exposures, where a residue of fire-killed limbs and new growth forms an almost impenetrable tangle. Where the topography has protected north slopes from fire a broad sclerophyll forest develops (Cooper, 1922). During the summer the deer bed and feed on the cooler north slopes, venturing into …
Article
STUDIES from sites around the world1-5 have provided evidence for anomalous climate conditions persisting for several hundred years before about AD 1300. Early workers emphasized the temperature increase that marked this period in the British Isles, coining the terms 'Mediaeval Warm Epoch' and 'Little Climatic Optimum', but many sites seem to have experienced equally important hydrological changes. Here I present a study of relict tree stumps rooted in present-day lakes, marshes and streams, which suggests that California's Sierra Nevada experienced extremely severe drought conditions for more than two centuries before ad ~ 1112 and for more than 140 years before ad ~ 1350. During these periods, runoff from the Sierra was significantly lower than during any of the persistent droughts that have occurred in the region over the past 140 years. I also present similar evidence from Patagonia of drought conditions coinciding with at least the first of these dry periods in California. I suggest that the droughts may have been caused by reorientation of the mid-latitude storm tracks, owing to a general contraction of the circumpolar vortices and/or a change in the position of the vortex waves. If this reorientation was caused by mediaeval warming, future natural or anthropogenically induced warming may cause a recurrence of the extreme drought conditions.