Middle and Late Pleistocene elks (Cervalces Scott, 1855 and Alces Gray, 1821) from Poland: palaeoenvironmental and palaeogeographic implications

Krzysztof Stefaniak, Kamilla Pawłowska, Urszula Ratajczak, Martina Roblíčková, Witold Gumiński, Piotr Wojtal


The paper deals with remains of the elks Cervalces latifrons, Cervalces sp. and Alces alces from Middle and Late Pleistocene sites in Poland. A form of the genus Cervalces occurred in Poland from the early (Kozi Grzbiet, MIS 19–17) to the late Middle Pleistocene (Biśnik Cave, MIS 6 or MIS 5e). The genus Alces appeared in Poland in the Eemian Interglacial (Dziadowa Skała Cave). Compared to the other cervids, elk remains from Poland are very few, but they mark important faunal changes. Kozi Grzbiet and Sitkówka are virtually the only Polish localities from the lower part of the Middle Pleistocene with the remains of large mammals, and the only records of Cervalces latifrons. The specimens from Biśnik Cave are among the last records of the occurrence of Cervalces in Europe. During the Last Glacial Maximum, elks were absent. Though the elks were the least abundant cervids, they were present at sites from milder climatic regimes (interglacials and interstadials) till the Holocene. Elk remains of that period are single teeth and postcranial skeletal bones from the beginning of glaciation in the deposits of Łokietka Cave (MIS 5a–d), Interplenivistulian (MIS 3): caves Biśnik and Obłazowa) and Borsuka Cave (MIS 3–2). In the Late Vistulian (MIS 1, Allerød and Younger Dryas), the elk recolonized the area occupied by Poland.

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