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Isleta Cave No. 1

NM: Bernalillo Co.: Sec 31, T8N, R1E; ca. 1716 m.


Location of the Isleta Cave sites.Age. Late Wisconsin and Holocene. 14C dates on bone are 17,240 ± 260 (AA 1208) and 16,430 ± 205 (AA 1209).

Description. The site is a volcanic extrusion with a large chamber in the lava; fissures slope downward from the main chamber. The original opening was at the top of the large mound with a 9-m drop from the opening to the floor (Hibben 1941); later, a tunnel was driven (supposedly by guano miners) through the side at ground level.

Discussion. The original excavations were by the University of New Mexico Department of Anthropology under Frank Hibben in 1946. Unfortunately, excavation notes have not been located, with available data from those excavations limited to information written on the paper bags in which the remains were stored. Hibben (1941) reported two taxa not seen by us: Elephas (= Mammuthus) and Bison (there is, however, a partial jaw with teeth that could be either Bison or Bos—this may be the basis of Hibben's record). Other genera cited in Hibben (1941) are not listed from that work since specimens are available. There have been several collections made by various people later in the 20th Century, all from highly disturbed deposits.

Harris and Findley (1964) did not distinguish between taxa identified from Isleta Cave No. 1 and Isleta Cave No. 2, and generally records from that publication are not cited here in the faunal list. One taxon that was reported was Tremarctotherium (the current name is Arctodus); the record from this site is based on a portion of skull identified by Byorn Kurtén, but which apparently did not make it back to the collection and cannot now be located.

The cave material from both Isleta 1 and Isleta 2 includes Holocene as well as Pleistocene, and the collections have recently been reexamined in an attempt to separate taxa represented only by specimens judged to be Holocene from those that show no discernible evidence of being Holocene. In general, specimens retaining any soft tissues or showing evidence of having been transported in relatively recent times in owl pellets or coprolites (e.g., hair embedded in depressions or orifices) have been deemed as likely Holocene. There is a certain amount of subjectivity involved. Specimens not showing such evidence of recency are left in limbo: Wisconsin/Holocene.

Several taxa listed by Harris and Findley (1964) can no longer be supported as possibly representing the Pleistocene of the Isleta Caves. These are marked in the lists as Holocene. Holocene material almost certainly includes most of the reptilian material reported by Harris and Findley (1964). However, records of correspondence from the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico indicate remains of a large tortoise were recovered; these specimens have not been found. In the faunal list, those taxa thought on the basis of preservation to likely be Holocene and unrepresented in the Pleistocene material are noted in the accounts as "Rejected: Holocene". Reworking of the cottontails leaves the sure identification of Sylvilagus floridanus as apparently Holocene, with probable Pleistocene specimens not certainly identified; likewise, Sylvilagus nuttallii is reduced to probable identification only. Much fossil material still needs to be examined in detail.

The present vegetation (Harris 1985a) is arid grassland with some arid-land shrubs; a few One-seed Juniper (Juniperus monosperma) occur on lava outcrops. A small stand of Creosotebush (Larrea tridentata) occurs on basaltic outcrops a few miles away; this is a northern outlier, apparently surviving because of the special habitat.



†Coragyps occidentalis—Western Vulture (Harris 1993c)
Aquila chrysaetos—Golden Eagle (Harris 1993c)
Centrocercus urophasianus—Greater Sage-grouse (Harris 1993c)
Eremophila alpestris—Horned Lark (Harris 1993c: cf. gen. et sp.)
Corvus corax—Common Raven (Harris 1993c)


Mammuthus sp.—Mammoth (Hibben 1941)
Cynomys gunnisoni—Gunnison's Prairie Dog (Harris 1993c)
Dipodomys spectabilis—Banner-tailed Kangaroo Rat (Harris 1993c)
Thomomys sp.—Thomomys Pocket Gopher (UTEP)
Lemmiscus curtatus—Sagebrush Vole (Harris 1993c)
Microtus pennsylvanicus—Meadow Vole (Harris 1993c: cf.)
Neotoma albigula—White-throated Woodrat (Harris 1993c)
Neotoma cinerea—Bushy-tailed Woodrat (Harris 1993c)
Neotoma micropus—Southern Plains Woodrat (Harris 1993c: ?)
Onychomys leucogaster—Northern Grasshopper Mouse (Harris 1993c)
Peromyscus sp.—White-footed Mouse (Harris 1993c)
Reithrodontomys sp.—Harvest Mouse (Harris 1993c)
Lepus californicus —Black-tailed Jackrabbit (UTEP)
Sylvilagus audubonii—Desert Cottontail (Harris 1993c)
Sylvilagus floridanus—Eastern Cottontail (UTEP: cf.)
Sylvilagus nuttallii—Mountain Cottontail (UTEP: cf.)
Antrozous pallidus—Pallid Bat (Harris 1993c)
Myotis thysanodes—Fringe-tailed Myotis (Harris 1993c)
Lynx rufus—Bobcat (Harris 1993c)
Panthera atrox—American Lion (Harris 1993c)
Puma concolor—Mountain Lion (UTEP)
Canis latrans—Coyote (Harris 1993c)
Canis lupus—Gray Wolf (Harris 1993c)
Vulpes velox—Swift Fox (Harris 1993c)
Vulpes vulpes—Red Fox (Harris 1993c)
Arctodus simus—Giant Short-faced Bear (Harris and Findley 1964)
Ursus americanus—Black Bear (Harris 1993c)
Mustela nigripes—Black-footed Ferret (Harris 1993c)
Equus scotti—Scott's Horse (UTEP: cf.)
Camelops hesternus—Yesterday's Camel (Harris 1993c: cf.)
Antilocapra americana—Pronghorn (Harris 1993c)


Xerospermophilus spilosoma—Spotted Ground Squirrel (Harris 1993c) Voucher not found
Chaetodipus intermedius—Rock Pocket Mouse (Harris 1993c: cf.) Holocene
Perognathus flavus—Silky Pocket Mouse (Harris 1993c: cf.) Holocene
Dipodomys ordii—Ord's Kangaroo Rat (Harris 1993c) Apparently Holocene
Thomomys bottae—Botta's Pocket Gopher (Harris 1993c) Holocene
Onychomys torridus—Torridus-type Grasshopper Mouse (Harris 1993c) Holocene
Erethizon dorsata—American Porcupine (Harris 1993c) Probably Holocene
Lepus townsendii—White-tailed Jackrabbit (Harris 1993c) Voucher not found
Vulpes macrotis—Kit Fox (Harris 1993c) Holocene
Mephitis mephitis—Striped Skunk (Harris 1993c) Probably Holocene

Literature. Findley et al. 1975; Harris 1985a; Harris and Findley 1964; Hibben 1941.


Last Update: 6 Aug 2013