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A Journey to a New Land

Berry Picking
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Dr. Brent Ward

Department of Earth Sciences, Simon Fraser University

Port Eliza Cave – Faunal Remains

The bone record that we find in the Port Eliza Cave, in the sediments that pre-date the last glaciation, indicates a wide range of different types of animals. In terms of land mammals, probably the most important find is a mountain goat. This indicates environmental viability for large ungulates, which of course could be a potential source of food for any predators in the area. We also have a wide range of smaller mammals – these include an alpine marmot that could in fact be the present Vancouver Island Marmot, which is one of the most endangered mammals presently in Canada. We have three different types of voles, which are a small mouse-like rodent, and these seem to indicate generally open conditions. We also have one carnivore - a marten, which generally occurs in dense coniferous forest in the present day. But there is evidence from the Pleistocene that this animal could inhabit environments that were sort of a mix of forest and open conditions. We also have a wide range of birds. The only one identified to the genus level is Savannah sparrow. The other birds include a wide range of waterfowl such as cormorants and ducks, etc. indicating that either lakes or sea level was close by. We also have a wide range of fish including salmon and three-spined stickleback and another range of shallow marine species. These other species such as Pollock and haddock are important because salmon and three-spined stickleback can inhabit fresh water, but the fact that we have these shallow marine species indicates that relative sea level was relatively close to the cave, close enough so that some sort of predator or scavenger could go down to the shore, harvest some of these fish and then bring them back to the cave where they were obviously living. We are not entirely sure what that could be – it could be a marten although they generally don’t do a lot of fishing. Another possibility is that it could be a river otter.