Notable: Neandertal rock dove hunting

Notable paper: Blasco, R., Finlayson, C., Rosell, J., Marco, A.S., Finlayson, S., Finlayson, G., Negro, J.J., Pacheco, F. G., Vidal, J. R. (2014) The earliest pigeon fanciers. Scientific Reports 4:5971. doi:10.1038/srep05971

Synopsis: Ruth Blasco and colleagues studied 1724 rock dove bones from Gorham’s Cave, finding evidence for human processing, cooking and/or consumption of the birds in 11 out of 19 Neandertal contexts, through at least 40,000 years of Neandertal occupations.

Important because: The work documents that hunting and eating these medium-sized birds was a recurrent part of Neandertal (and later modern human) diets. Once it was common to see “small mammal and bird hunting” in lists of behavioral traits limited to modern humans. Now we know that Neandertals regularly took large birds for feathers and medium to large birds for food. This isn’t a single occurrence, it is a sampling of the behavior of people over tens of thousands of years.

Plus, who knew? Rock doves are the wild progenitor species of common pigeons, and they are indistinguishable from fragmentary bone remains.