Was Cuon alpinus a member of the Mammoth Steppe Fauna? Comparative morphological and osteometrical study on recent and fossil Canidae hemimandibles.
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This master thesis focuses on thirteen Canidae hemimandibles fished from the bottom of the North Sea (Southern Bight) of which it remains to be established whether they belong to Canis lupus lupus (Eurasian wolf), Canis lupus familiaris (domestic dog) or Cuon alpinus (dhole). Of one hemimandible in particular (NMR90, a recently found posterior half of an extremely small jaw (with P4 and M1) of estimated Late Pleistocene age) is suspected, due to its apparent small size and dental formula, that it most probably belongs to neither wolf nor dog (nor fox, which is considerably smaller), but to Cuon alpinus (Dick Mol pers. comm.). If this mandible were of Cuon alpinus origin, this would be the westernmost occurrence of Cuon alpinus, which is certainly a novelty for Dutch paleontology. The aim of this study was to identify the thirteen fossil North Sea specimens as wolf, dog or dhole and thereby verifying whether Cuon alpinus was a member of the carnivore guild of Northwestern Europe during the Late Pleistocene. The thirteen fossil North Sea specimens were identified by means of morphological and osteometrical comparison with comparative datasets of Canis lupus lupus (18 specimens), Canis lupus familiaris (42 specimens) and Cuon alpinus (27 specimens). All 100 Canidae specimens were measured for 21 parameters concerning hemimandibular and teeth dimensions. Additionally to all quantitative measurements, the fossil specimens were qualitatively compared to all three comparative (sub)species. Statistics (standard deviations) were applied to add a confidence interval of 97.7% to the conclusions that are based on the quantitative parameters. Keeping in mind that results may have been affected by: the representability of this particular comparative dataset for the C. l. lupus, C. l. familiaris and Cuon alpinus populations of Northwestern Europe during the Pleistocene (with respect to subspecies, locality, age and sex), differences between left and right hemimandibles, measuring errors, the normal distribution of parameters, values from literature and possible sexual dimorphism, this morphological and osteometrical study of the comparative Canidae material with the thirteen fossil North Sea specimens has allowed us to identify these fossil hemimandibles as belonging to the genus Canis. So far there is no evidence that Cuon alpinus was a member of the Mammoth Steppe Fauna.