Fauna and Flora

 

Fauna

The vertebrate species found at the site so far include (those that were newly discovered during the 2004 excavation are marked by an asterisk):

Fish

  • Pike, Esox lucius
  • Perch, Perca fluviatilis
  • Eel, Anguilla anguilla
  • Rudd, Scardinius erythropthalamus
  • Tench, Tinca tinca
  • Stickleback, Gasterosteus or Pungitius sp.
  • Thorn back ray, Raja clavata
  • Undetermined shark, Selachimorph sp.

Amphibian

  • Frog or toad, Rana or Bufo sp.

Reptiles

  • European pond turtle, Emys orbicularis*

Birds

  • Duck, Anatidae*
  • Song bird, Passeriformes*
  • Grey Goose, Anser*sp
 

Mammals

  • Least shrew, Sorex minutissimus
  • Extinct shrew, Sorex (Drepanosorex) sp.
  • Water shrew, Neomys sp.
  • Beaver, Castoridae
  • Vole (close to bank vole), Clethrionomys sp.
  • Extinct water vole, Mimomys savini
  • Extinct vole, Microtus (hintoni-gregaloides group)
  • Mouse (close to wood mouse), Apodemus
  • Hyaena, Hyaenidae
  • Undetermined member of weasel family, Mustelidae
  • Extinct elephant, Mammuthus meridionalis
  • Undetermined bovid, Bovidae*
  • Roe deer, Capreolus sp.*
  • Large deer, Cervidae
  • Hippopotamus, Hippopotamus sp.
  • Horse, Equus altidens

 


The bulk of what was found belonged to hippo, followed by hyaena (coprolites), turtle, deer (red deer sized), beaver and horse.

The most impressive large mammal to be found is the Hippo, which may represent a larger extinct species than the one in Africa today that we know lived in the Thames 125 thousand years ago. Bones from at least two individuals were found at the quarry since 2002. These were the bones of a foot, (Photo 6), and several vertebra, (Photo 7), and a tusk, (Photo 8) in two separate horizons of the quarry. The 2004 excavation produced more such remains. They came mostly from the Stony Organic Deposit in both trenches and consisted of toes (phalanges), vertebrae, ankle/wrist bones (tarsals and carpals), ribs, teeth and shoulder blades (scapulae). As was mentioned we nearly had "heads, shoulders, knees and toes"! The most spectacular bones (and teeth) included a calcaneum (heal bone), 3 scapulae (shoulder blades), a number of premolars and a partial upper canine.

Photos 6, 7, 8

Photo 6 Photo 7 Photo 8

 

Another special find at the site was a cluster of hyaena droppings (coprolites). The droppings of hyaena survive because they are entirely made up of crushed bone and therefore do not decompose unlike most other types of droppings. The cluster was found on top of a woody layer which is believed to be the remains of an alder wood lying next to a river. The concentration of these coprolites implies that they represent a latrine site as spotted hyaenas are known today to use specific areas repeatedly. In 2004 more hyaena coprolites were found scattered through the stoney organic deposit and elsewhere.

Photo 9. Hyaena coprolite cluster.

 

The emerging pattern may be that we have hippo carcasses in an abandoned river channel, which dried up enough for hyaenas to venture out onto the mud. There they retrieved most of the larger hippo bones and destroyed them in situ (by eating them). The coprolites appear to be concentrating at one level within the Stony Organic Deposit in Trench A suggesting that this was the stage at which the organic mud had dried sufficiently.

Other animals found include bones of an extinct horse, a deer, an elephant and several small mammals such as shrews and water voles. Fish, amphibian, reptile and bird remains have also been found, of which the fish are by far the most common and include pike and members of the carp family. The fish indicate that the river was a slow moving lowland river. The edge of this channel was vegetated by trees (see below) in a fen carr like environment the like of which can be seen in the Norfolk broads today.

Photo 10. Hippo canine and an immature rib of an as yet unidentified mammal in Trench A.

 

Photo 11. Hippo scapula (shoulder blade) in situ in Trench A.

Photo 12. Deer metapodial (foot bone) mould in collapsed section of Trench B.

 

 

Flora

The wood that you recovered has been identified by Rowena Gale and as expected has mostly turned out to be alder (Alnus glutinosa). In addition to the alder there were 5 pieces of elm (Ulmus sp.) from Trench A and 5 pieces of oak (Quercus sp.) and two possible pieces from the rose family, which includes crab apple and hawthorn, from Trench B. This all fits well with our original idea about the site at the hippo level as being a fen carr (alder carr) like environment. It also fits the pollen, which from levels below the stoney organc horizon produced alder pollen. Note that the stoney organic deposit produced little or no pollen.

 

Photo 13. Tree (Alder) stump in growing position in Trench A.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


 

 
 

The excavation was funded by English Nature and the Aggregrates Levy Sustainability Fund. The Natural Environment Research Council, Quaternary Research Association and Royal Society have also funded this work.