Holocene vertebrates from a dry cave on Eleuthera Island, Commonwealth of The Bahamas

David W. Steadman, Nancy A. Albury, Jim I. Mead, J. Angel Soto-Centeno, Janet Franklin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


We report a mid- to late-Holocene, non-cultural vertebrate assemblage from Garden Cave (site EL-229), Eleuthera Island, The Bahamas, with 2450 fossils representing 26 species. The chronology is based on accelerator mass spectrometer (AMS) radiocarbon (14C) dates determined directly on individual bones of the hutia (Geocapromys ingrahami), an extirpated species of rodent that dominates the bone assemblage at Garden Cave. Four AMS 14C dates from our excavation range from 1340 to 1280 cal. BP (surface of the site) to 4860 to 4830 cal. BP with depth. A hutia bone lying on the surface from elsewhere in the cave dated to 450 to 290 cal. BP, which is roughly the time of European and African contact on Eleuthera. Other extirpated species from Garden Cave are tortoise (Chelonoidis sp.), rock iguana (Cyclura sp.), skink (Mabuya sp.), parrot (Amazona leucocephala), crow (Corvus nasicus), and southeastern myotis (Myotis austroriparius). Each of these species may have survived on Eleuthera until sometime after the initial human occupation of the island (~1000 cal. BP), although we have direct AMS 14C dates for only the hutia. During the time of fossil deposition in Garden Cave, sea levels were approaching that of today, yet land areas were considerably larger than now, connecting Eleuthera to New Providence, and potentially to Exuma as well. Such relatively recent connections are important in explaining past and present distributions of terrestrial plants and animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)806-813
Number of pages8
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2018


  • Bahamas
  • Holocene
  • extirpation
  • islands
  • land area
  • sea level
  • vertebrates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Archaeology
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Palaeontology


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