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Pendejo Cave

NM: Otero Co.: 32°25'N, 105°55'W; ca. 1490 m.

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Location of Pendejo Cave.Age. The cave sediments range from modern to older than 55,000 radiocarbon years, based on 14C dates (Taylor et al. 2003).

Pendejo Cave Description. Pendejo Cave lies in Rough Canyon on Fort Bliss land, about 21 km east of Orogrande in south-central New Mexico. The cave itself is in Permian dolomitic limestone that forms an escarpment where Otero Mesa on the east drops down to the Tularosa Basin. The cave lies about 50 m above the arroyo bottom, with its mouth facing north. It is about 5 m wide, 12 m deep, and with a maximum height of 3 m (MacNeish 2003).



Fig. 1. Pendejo Cave, Rough Canyon. Otero Mesa is above the cliffs. Photograph by A. H. Harris


Discussion.The present vegetation is Chihuahuan desertscrub, with somewhat more mesic-type vegetation at the foot of cliffs.

Excavation under the direction of MacNeish began in February of 1990 and continued between February and April through 1991 and 1992. The claim of pre-Clovis human utilization of Pendejo Cave has made the cave and the interpretations of its contents controversial.

Google view of the location of Pendejo Cave

Fig. 2. View from the west of the breaks of Otero Mesa and position of Pendejo Cave (white circle).

The cave stratigraphy was designated by zones, A to O; Zones A and B have only late dates (350-1150 BP) and are not treated here. Based on the large series of radiocarbon dates, Cunnar (2003) estimated the approximate probable span of deposition for each zone, and his estimates are used here. Zone C is mixed Holocene and Pleistocene; most radiocarbon dates are from 1780-5870 BP, but two are 16,410 and 28,280. The recovered fauna contains obvious Pleistocene fossils along with probable post-Pleistocene material and indicates severe mixing of the deposits. The fauna from this level is designated Holocene/Late Wisconsin. I am treating Zone C1 through Zone F as late Wisconsin (11,300-25,000 BP). The remainder of the fauna is treated as Mid Wisconsin (G, 25,000-28,000 BP to O, >55,000). Although the Mid Wisconsin is treated here as a unit, climate varied within the 30,000+ years. As one indication, most roadrunners recovered are of the larger sized Conkling's Roadrunner, but a specimen from the oldest zone, O, appears to be of the smaller, warmer-climate subspecies. Pendejo Cave during excavation showing strata

Faunal identifications are by Lauri L. Lear, William Fling, and Arthur H. Harris; final responsibility lies with the latter.

Fig. 3. Pendejo Cave during excavation, showing stratification.

In addition to the osteological remains reported below, Chrisman et al. (2003) reported hair from several species (including human). Samples of hair from Feature 27, Zone C2 included sloth, bear, sheep, goat, "Bovid" (the meaning is unclear since sheep and goats also are bovids; probably meant to indicate Bos/Bison), horse, and camel.

The vegetation during the late Wisconsin has been reconstructed to a degree through material from woodrat middens, cave-sediment macrofossils, and pollen (Betancourt et al. 2001). Through much of post-full-glacial time (ca. 17,000-12,000 radiocarbon years BP), vegetation was dominated by Colorado pinyon (Pinus edulis) and Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum), with Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and other conifers limited to north-facing slopes.

The faunal list has been reworked extensively (30 Jun 2009) to better reflect the time units (as indicated above) and modifications of identifications since Harris (2003). Some taxa have been added and a number of taxa queried at the generic level have been omitted. Additions and changes reference "UTEP" rather than Harris (2003).

Fauna.

Mid Wisconsin

Amphibia

Ambystoma mavortium—Barred Tiger Salamander (Harris 2003)
Spea multiplicata—New Mexico Spadefoot (Harris 2003)
Anaxyrus—Common Toad (UTEP)

Reptilia

Crotaphytus collaris—Eastern Collared Lizard (Harris 2003)
Phrynosoma hernandesi—Mountain Short-horned Lizard (Harris 2003)
Phrynosoma modestum—Roundtail Horned Lizard (Harris 2003)
Aspidoscelis tigris-size—Whiptail size of Western Whiptail (UTEP: Mid or Late Wisconsin)
Bogertophis subocularis—Trans-Pecos Rat Snake (Harris 2003)
Coluber/Masticophis—Racer/Whipsnake (Harris 2003)
Lampropeltis getula—Common Kingsnake (UTEP)
Pantherophis emoryi—Great Plains Rat Snake (Harris 2003)
Pituophis catenifer—Gopher Snake (Harris 2003)
Crotalus—Rattlesnake (Harris 2003)
Diadophis punctatus—Ringneck Snake (Harris 2003)
Thamnophis—Garter Snake (Harris 2003)

Chelonia

Gopherus morafkai—Morafka's Tortoise (Harris 2003)

Aves

Tympanuchus pallidicinctus—Lesser Prairie Chicken (UTEP)
Meleagris—Turkey (Harris 2003)
Callipepla squamata—Scaled Quail (Harris 2003: cf.)
Cathartes aura—Turkey Vulture (Harris 2003)
Coragyps occidentalis—Western Vulture (Harris 2003)
Accipiter striatus—Sharp-shinned Hawk (Harris 2003)
Buteo swainsoni—Swainson's Hawk (Harris 2003: cf.)
Falco mexicanus—Prairie Falcon (Harris 2003)
Falco sparverius—American Kestrel (Harris 2003)
Zenaida macroura—Mourning Dove (Harris 2003)
Geococcyx californianus californianus—Greater Roadrunner (Harris 2003)
Geococcyx californianus conklingi—Conkling's Roadrunner (Harris 2003)
Tyto alba—Barn Owl (UTEP)
Asio flammeus—Short-eared Owl (Harris 2003)
Bubo virginianus—Great Horned Owl (Harris 2003)
Colaptes auratus—Northern Flicker (Harris 2003)
Melanerpes lewis—Lewis Woodpecker (UTEP: May be Late Wisconsin)
Aphelocoma californica—Western Scrub Jay (Harris 2003)
Corvus cryptoleucus—Chihuahua Raven (Harris 2003)
Cyanocitta stelleri—Steller's Jay (Harris 2003)
Nucifraga—Nutcracker (UTEP: cf.)
Pica hudsonia—Black-billed Magpie (Harris 2003)
Salpinctes—Rock Wren (Harris 2003: cf.)
Sturnella—Meadow Lark (Harris 2003)

Mammalia

Ammospermophilus interpres—Texas Antelope Squirrel (Harris 2003)
Cynomys gunnisoni—Gunnison's Prairie Dog (Harris 2003)
Marmota flaviventris—Yellow-bellied Marmot (Harris 2003)
Ictidomys/Xerospermophilus—Ictidomys/Xerospermophilus Ground Squirrel (Harris 2003)
Tamias canipes/quadrivittatus—Gray-footed or Colorado Chipmunk (Harris 2003)
Tamias minimus—Least Chipmunk (Harris 2003)
Urocitellus elegans-size—Squirrel size of Wyoming Ground Squirrel (Harris 2003)
Dipodomys ordii—Ord's Kangaroo Rat (Harris 2003)
Dipodomys spectabilis—Banner-tailed Kangaroo Rat (Harris 2003)
Perognathus flavus—Silky Pocket Mice (UTEP: cf.)
Cratogeomys castanops—Yellow-faced Pocket Gopher (Harris 2003)
Geomys arenarius/bursarius—Desert or Great Plains Pocket Gopher (Harris 2003)
Thomomys bottae—Botta's Pocket Gopher (Harris 2003)
Thomomys talpoides—Northern Pocket Gopher (Harris 2003)
Lemmiscus curtatus—Sagebrush Vole (Harris 2003)
Microtus mogollonensis—Mogollon Vole (Harris 2003)
Microtus pennsylvanicus—Meadow Vole (UTEP)
Neotoma cinerea—Bushy-tailed Woodrat (Harris 2003)
Neotoma leucodon—White-toothed Woodrat (Harris 2003)
Onychomys leucogaster—Northern Grasshopper Mouse (Harris 2003)
Peromyscus crinitus—Canyon Mouse (Harris 2003; UTEP)
Reithrodontomys—Harvest Mouse (Harris 2003)
Sigmodon—Cotton Rat (Harris 2003)
Aztlanolagus agilis—Aztlán Rabbit (Harris 2003)
Lepus californicus—Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Harris 2003)
Lepus townsendii—White-tailed Jackrabbit (Harris 2003)
Sylvilagus audubonii—Desert Cottontail (Harris 2003)
Sylvilagus floridanus—Eastern Cottontail (Harris 2003)
Sylvilagus nuttallii—Mountain Cottontail (Harris 2003)
Notiosorex dalquesti—Desert Shrew (Carraway 2010)
Sorex merriami—Merriam's Shrew (Harris 2003)
Antrozous pallidus—Pallid Bat (Harris 2003)
Lasiurus cinereus—Hoary Bat (Harris 2003)
Myotis—Myotis Bats (Harris 2003)
Myotis velifer—Cave Myotis (UTEP: Mid or Late Wisconsin)
Lynx rufus—Bobcat (Harris 2003)
Panthera atrox/Arctodus simus—American Lion or Short-faced Bear (Harris 2003)
Canis latrans—Coyote (Harris 2003)
Canis lupus—Gray Wolf (Harris 2003: cf. gen., ?)
Urocyon cinereoargenteus—Gray Fox (Harris 2003)
Vulpes velox—Swift Fox (UTEP: cf.)
Ursus americanus—Black Bear (Harris 2003)
Mustela frenata—Long-tailed Weasel (Harris 2003)
Mustela nigripes—Black-footed Ferret (Harris 2003)
Taxidea taxus—American Badger (Harris 2003)
Mephitis mephitis—Striped Skunk (Harris 2003)
Spilogale—Spotted Skunk (Harris 2003)
Equus conversidens—Mexican Horse (Harris 2003)
Equus scotti—Scott's Horse (Harris 2003)
Camelops.—American Camel (Harris 2003)
Hemiauchenia macrocephala—Big-headed Llama (Harris 2003)
Odocoileus hemionus—Mule Deer (Harris 2003: cf.)
Antilocapra americana—Pronghorn (Harris 2003)
Capromeryx—Miniature Pronghorn (Harris 2003)
Stockoceros conklingi—Conkling's Pronghorn (Harris 2003)
Bison antiquus—Ancient Bison (Harris 2003: cf.)

Late Wisconsin

Amphibia

Ambystoma mavortium—Barred Tiger Salamander (Harris 2003)

Reptilia

Crotaphytus collaris—Eastern Collared Lizard (Harris 2003)
Phrynosoma cornutum—Texas Horned Lizard (Harris 2003)
*Aspidoscelis tigris—Western Whiptail (Harris 2003: ?)
Coluber/Masticophis—Racer or Coachwhip (Harris 2003)
Pituophis catenifer—Gopher Snake (Harris 2003)
Rhinocheilus lecontei—Long-nosed Snake (Harris 2003)
Crotalus—Rattlesnake (Harris 2003)
Thamnophis—Garter Snakes (Harris 2003)

Chelonia

Terrapene—Box Turtle (UTEP)
Gopherus morafkai—Morafka's Tortoise (Harris 2003)

Aves

Anas platyrhynchos—Mallard (Harris 2003: cf.)
Callipepla—Crested Quail (UTEP cf.)
Cathartes aura—Turkey Vulture (Harris 2003)
Coragyps occidentalis—Western Vulture (Harris 2003)
Falco sparverius—American Kestrel (UTEP)
Colaptes auratus—Northern Flicker (Harris 2003)
Corvus corax—Common Raven (Harris 2003)
Corvus cryptoleucus—Chihuahua Raven (Harris 2003)
Cyanocitta—Jay (Harris 2003)

Mammalia

Cynomys—Prairie Dog (Harris 2003)
Marmota flaviventris—Yellow-bellied Marmot (Harris 2003)
Xerospermophilus spilosoma—Spotted Ground Squirrel (UTEP: cf.)
Chaetodipus—Spiny Pocket Mouse (UTEP:Mid or Late Wisconsin
Dipodomys merriami/ordii—Merriam's or Ord's Kangaroo Rat (Harris 2003)
Dipodomys spectabilis—Banner-tailed Kangaroo Rat (Harris 2003)
Perognathus—Silky Pocket Mice (Harris 2003)
Cratogeomys castanops—Yellow-faced Pocket Gopher (Harris 2003)
Geomys—Geomys Pocket Gopher (UTEP: cf.)
Thomomys bottae—Botta's Pocket Gopher (Harris 2003)
Thomomys talpoides—Northern Pocket Gopher (Harris 2003)
Microtus—Vole (Harris 2003)
Neotoma cinerea—Bushy-tailed Woodrat (Harris 2003)
Neotoma leucodon—White-toothed Woodrat (Harris 2003)
Neotoma mexicana—Mexican Woodrat (Harris 2003)
Onychomys—Grasshopper Mouse (UTEP: cf.)
Peromyscus—White-footed Mouse (Harris 2003)
Reithrodontomys—Harvest Mouse (Harris 2003)
Sigmodon ochrognathus—Yellow-nosed Cotton Rat (UTEP)
Lepus—Jackrabbit (UTEP)
Sylvilagus audubonii—Desert Cottontail (UTEP)
Sylvilagus floridanus—Eastern Cottontail (UTEP)
Sylvilagus nuttallii—Mountain Cottontail (UTEP: cf.)
Myotis californicus/ciliolabrum—California or Western Small-footed Myotis (UTEP)
Lynx rufus—Bobcat (UTEP)
Canis latrans—Coyote (UTEP: cf.)
Mustela erminea—Ermine (Harris 2003: cf.)
Taxidea—American Badger (UTEP: cf.)
Spilogale—Spotted Skunk (Harris 2003)
Bassariscus astutus—Ringtail (Harris 2003)
Equus conversidens—Mexican Horse (Harris 2003)
Hemiauchenia macrocephala—Big-headed Llama (Harris 2003)
Odocoileus—Deer (Harris 2003)
Antilocapra americana—Pronghorn (Harris 2003)
Capromeryx furcifer—Diminutive Pronghorn (Harris 2003)

Capromeryx minor

Stockoceros conklingi—Conkling's Pronghorn (Harris 2003)
Bison—Bison (Harris 2003)
Antilocapra americana—Pronghorn (Harris 2003)

Late Wisconsin/Holocene

Amphibia

Ambystoma mavortium—Barred Tiger Salamander (Harris 2003)
Anaxyrus—Common Toads (Harris 2003: cf.)

Reptilia

Crotaphytus collaris—Eastern Collared Lizard (Harris 2003)
Phrynosoma cornutum—Texas Horned Lizard (Harris 2003)
Phrynosoma hernandesi—Mountain Short-horned Lizard (Harris 2003)
Phrynosoma modestum—Roundtail Horned Lizard (Harris 2003)
Coluber/Masticophis—Racer/Coachwhip (UTEP)
Lampropeltis getula—Common Kingsnake (UTEP)
Salvadora—Patch-nosed Snake (UTEP)
Crotalus—Rattlesnakes (Harris 2003)
Thamnophis—Garter Snake (UTEP)

Chelonia

Terrapene ornata—Ornate Box Turtle (UTEP: cf.)
Gopherus morafkai—Morafka's Tortoise (Harris 2003)

Aves

Anabernicula—Pygmy Goose (Harris 2003: ?)
Callipepla—Crested Quail (Harris 2003)
Cathartes aura—Turkey Vulture (Harris 2003)
Coragyps occidentalis—Western Vulture (Harris 2003)
Aquila or Haliaeetus—Golden or Bald Eagle (UTEP)
Buteo swainsoni—Swainson's Hawk (Harris 2003: cf.)
Falco sparverius—American Kestrel (Harris 2003)
Fulica americana—American Coot (Harris 2003)
Bubo virginianus—Great Horned Owl (Harris 2003)
Aphelocoma—Jay (Harris 2003)
Corvus corax—Common Raven (Harris 2003)

Mammalia

Nothrotheriops shastensis—Shasta Ground Sloth (Harris 2003: cf.: Zone A)
Ammospermophilus interpres—Texas Antelope Squirrel (UTEP: cf.)
Cynomys ludovicianus—Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Harris 2003)
Otospermophilus variegatus—Rock Squirrel (UTEP)
Tamias canipes/quadrivittatus —Gray-footed or Colorado Chipmunk (UTEP)
Xerospermophilus spilosoma—Spotted Ground Squirrel (UTEP: cf.)
Chaetodipus—Spiny Pocket Mice (Harris 2003)
Dipodomys merriami—Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Harris 2003)
Dipodomys ordii—Ord's Kangaroo Rat (Harris 2003)
Dipodomys spectabilis—Banner-tailed Kangaroo Rat (Harris 2003)
Perognathus flavus—Silky Pocket Mouse (UTEP: cf.)
Cratogeomys castanops—Yellow-faced Pocket Gopher (Harris 2003)
Geomys arenarius/bursarius—Desert or Plains Pocket Gopher (Harris 2003)
Thomomys bottae—Botta's Pocket Gopher (Harris 2003)
Thomomys talpoides—Northern Pocket Gopher (UTEP)
Lemmiscus curtatus—Sagebrush Vole (Harris 2003)
Microtus mogollonensis—Mogollon Vole (Harris 2003)
Neotoma cinerea—Bushy-tailed Woodrat (Harris 2003)
Neotoma leucodon—White-toothed Woodrat (Harris 2003)
Neotoma mexicana—Mexican Woodrat (Harris 2003)
Neotoma micropus—Southern Plains Woodrat (UTEP: cf.)
Onychomys arenicola—Mearn's Grasshopper Mouse (UTEP)
Onychomys leucogaster—Northern Grasshopper Mouse (UTEP)
Peromyscus leucopus—White-footed Mouse (Harris 2003; UTEP: cf.)
Reithrodontomys—Harvest Mice (UTEP: cf.)
Sigmodon hispidus—Hispid Cotton Rat (UTEP)
Sigmodon ochrognathus—Yellow-nosed Cotton Rat (UTEP)
Erethizon dorsata—American Porcupine (Harris 2003)
Lepus californicus—Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Harris 2003)
Sylvilagus audubonii—Desert Cottontail (Harris 2003)
Sylvilagus floridanus—Eastern Cottontail (Harris 2003)
Sylvilagus nuttallii—Mountain Cottontail (Harris 2003)
Notiosorex dalquesti—Dalquest's Shrew (Carraway 2010)
Sorex merriami—Merriam's Shrew (UTEP)
Antrozous pallidus—Pallid Bat (Harris 2003)
Lynx rufus—Bobcat (Harris 2003)
Canis latrans—Coyote (Harris 2003)
Canis lupus—Gray wolf (Harris 2003)
Urocyon cinereoargenteus—Gray Fox (Harris 2003)
Ursus—Bear (Harris 2003: cf.)
Mustela frenata—Long-tailed Weasel (Harris 2003)
Mephitis mephitis —Striped Skunk (UTEP)
Spilogale—Spotted Skunks (Harris 2003)
Bassariscus astutus—Ringtail (Harris 2003)
Equus conversidens—Mexican Horse (Harris 2003)
Hemiauchenia macrocephala—Big-headed Llama (UTEP: cf. gen. et sp.)
Odocoileus sp. —Deer (Harris 2003)
Antilocapra americana—Pronghorn (Harris 2003)
Capromeryx—Miniature Pronghorn (Harris 2003)
Stockoceros conklingi—Conkling's Pronghorn (Harris 2003)
Bos/Bison/Euceratherium—Large Bovid (Harris 2003)
Ovis canadensis—Bighorn Sheep (Harris 2003)

Literature. Carraway 2010; Betancourt et al. 2001; Chrisman 1997; Chrisman et al. 1996; DeGarmo 2003; Harris 1995, 2003; MacNeish 2003; MacNeish and Libby 2003; Shaffer and Baker 1997.

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Last Update: 6 Aug 2013