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In 1981 University of Nebraska paleontologists came upon an unexpected concentration of carnivore dens at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in northwest Nebraska. The discovery of bones of Miocene beardogs, mustelids, and canids in their burrows was unparalleled and marked an exceptional event in the fossil record. Survey and excavation (1981–1990) established that six species of carnivores had, over time, occupied the dens with traces of their prey: juvenile and adult oreodonts, camels, and a neonatal rhinoceros. At least nine individuals of the wolf-like beardog Daphoenodon superbus, the most common carnivore, were identified from remains of young, mature, and aged individuals that included in one den an adult female and her juvenile male offspring. The carnivores found together in the dens represent a moment in time—the oldest carnivore den community yet discovered with remains of predators, their prey, and their ecology in evidence. Dated at 22 to 23 Ma (million years), the den complex provided scientists with the oldest documented evidence of carnivore denning behavior.
paleozoology, beardogs, Daphoenodon, Delotrochanter, Megalictis, Cormocyon, Phlaocyon
Geology | Paleobiology | Paleontology | Physical Sciences and Mathematics | Sedimentology
Hunt, Robert M. Jr.; Skolnick, Robert; and Kaufman, Joshua, "The Carnivores of Agate Fossil Beds National Monument: Miocene Dens and Waterhole in the Valley of a Dryland Paleoriver" (2018). Zea E-Books Collection. 74.