As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

How birds are opening up windows into the lives of the Neanderthals

25 February 2016

WHILST Gibraltar likes to refer to itself as the ‘cradle of history’, recent papers published in the Quaternary International journal and complied by the Gibraltar Museum and collaborating scientists do suggest that Gibraltar has played a very important part in mankind’s development and the proof may be found in its range of caves.

It has long been recognised that with no less than 151 species of birds identified in fossil material found in the caves, Gibraltar is probably the site with the largest number of bird species in the world dating back between 100,000 and 125,000 years.

Recent publications have shown how Neanderthals exploited birds for food but also for their feathers. Now, the new papers add to this wealth of ground-breaking information.

The first paper uses the rich avifauna in Gibraltar to test the environmental quality of the site. It compares Gibraltar with another Neanderthal site – Zafarraya in Malaga. Despite the relative proximity of the two sites they differed dramatically in environmental quality as judged by the species of birds in each site.

When compared to the 151 species from Gibraltar, Zafarraya had only 35 but the difference according to the scientists is not just in numbers but also in species found. The birds in Zafarraya were mainly cliff nesting species whilst, Gibraltar had the same cliff nesters but also species from wetlands, woodland, open plains and the coast.

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