Saturday, July 20, 2013

European Shags

As far as we can tell European Shags Phalacrocorax aristotelis have been raising their young on the cliffs and ledges around Gorham's Cave for at least 60 thousand years! Here is part of the 2013 generation. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013


Horses were a feature of the Neanderthal landscape outside Gorham's Cave. The habitats in the Coto Donana, where we can find semi-wild horses today, are very similar to those that existed outside these caves; they included seasonal wetlands, shrublands and areas with scattered trees, all of which suited horses well as they still do today.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Red Kite

The Red Kite Milvus milvus is a tree-nesting raptor that eats a wide variety of small prey, from frogs and mice to birds and small rabbits. It is also a regular scavenger, attending carcasses of large animals. Some birds nest in the Coto Donana but numbers are augmented in winter by birds from the north. At Gorham's Cave the Red Kite features prominently among the raptors and evidence of cut marks on wing bones indicates that the Neanderthals got to them, almost certainly for their superb feathers.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Red Deer and Magpie

Red Deer Cervus elaphus and Magpie Pica pica were two abundant species that lived on the sandy plains off Gorham's and Vanguard Caves. The deer would have been hunted by a range of carnivores and also the Neanderthals. They have wide habitat choice and would have lived in dense scrub (as here) but also open pine woods and close to shallow lakes. The magpies prefer open habitats with a few trees, on which they build their nests, and are omnivorous taking a range of foods including large insects, lizards, small birds and carrion. They are among the first at a carcass.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Griffon Vulture

The plains outside Gorham's Cave attracted many scavengers who were always ready to take the opportunity of a carnivore kill or the remains of animals left by the Neanderthals. The Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus is numerous in the deposits from 20 to 60 kyr. These birds would have nested on the many ledges on the cliffs of Gibraltar. Last year we published findings that showed that the Neanderthals were catching these birds and skinning them in order to get the large feathers which we think they wore.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Spotted Hyaena

The Spotted Hyaena Crocuta crocuta was the commonest carnivore outside Gorham's and Vanguard Caves between 60 and 20 kyr. Some of the specimens were huge, much larger than any cousin that you could fine today in Africa. Some palaeontologists define these as cave hyaenas C.c.spelaea.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The new face of Natur-al-Andalus

After a year's absence we return with a purpose. Each post will consist of a photograph taken by one of us and a brief description. Our aim is to slowly build up an archive of images of the species which we are finding  in the fossil record of the Gibraltar Caves. For information on those caves and the work being done there visit our sister blog at

Here's a Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos photographed recently by Stewart. This species is frequent in the levels at Gorham's Cave and was a component of the fauna at the time of the Neanderthals (60-31.5 thousand years ago). It most likely nested on the cliffs of Gibraltar and hunted on the plains which are now submerged. In a recent paper we showed that the Neanderthals took these birds for their feathers.