Photo 1. The entrance to Druška Peć Cave below Mt Učka. Situated on the southern slopes of the torrent-carved depression of Mošćenička Draga, the cave is an important paleontological site. (Photo by Nina Trinajstić)
WHAT IS AN UPPER-PLEISTOCENE ALPINE FAUNISTIC COMMUNITY?
Upper-Pleistocene “Alpine” faunistic community in Druška Peć Cave below Mt Učka
The Pleistocene is divided into the Lower, Middle and Upper Pleistocene. Each of these periods is characterised by a specific set of animal and plant species. Fossil remains from the ice ages, that is, the Pleistocene epoch, are often found preserved in sediment layers in sheltered niches of caves and pits, where they have been protected from decay. By studying such sediments, it is possible to learn a lot not only about bygone plants and animals and how they lived but also about the paleo-environment. Such data help palaeontologists, archaeologists and paleoecologist to interpret and reconstruct the past.
Research conducted in the caves and pits of Mt Učka by Dr Mirko Malez, the “pioneer of Croatian speleo-archaeology”, is very instructive in interpreting Pleistocene (ice age) conditions in the broader Kvarner region. Of special interest are his archaeological findings in Druška Peć Cave. The wide opening of the cave lies on the steep left slope of the Mošćenička Draga canyon (Photo 1). In one sondage from this cave, Dr Malez found the bones of the Alpine marmot (Photo 2), wolf, cave bear, cave lion, ibex and willow ptarmigan. According to his interpretation, this was an Upper-Pleistocene Alpine faunistic community that lived in our region during the Würm glaciation, at a fairly low altitude above sea level. Druška Peć Cave is located just 335 metres above sea level and is quite far from the Alps. Even today, similar animal communities still live in the Alps, although certain Pleistocene species, like the cave lion and cave bear, have become extinct.
M. R. and N. T.