Image: A leopard's lunch

A leopard's lunch

Reconstruction of the death of a hominin by a leopard, based on fossils found in South Africa.

© Australian Museum


One two-million-year old fossil skullcap (SK 54) of a juvenile Paranthropus sp. has provided some interesting information about the death of this individual. The skullcap has been pierced leaving two small, round holes. These holes have been perfectly matched to the canine teeth in the jaw of an ancient species of leopard.

It seems that a leopard caught the adolescent and dragged its prey up into a tree to eat, just as modern leopards do today. The left-overs from this meal fell out of the tree and dropped into a cavity in the ground below. This cavity was part of a cave system that trapped the debris from many predators’ meals, the bones from which were later preserved as fossils.

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