Paper No. 84-59
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM
THREE DIMENSIONAL GEOMETRIC MORPHOMETRICS AS A METHOD TO IDENTIFY THE SPECIES OF CANIS SPP. SPECIMEN AT A HISTORIC SITE IN WESTERN TEXAS
Whiskey Flats, an archaeological site on the Llano Estacado (western Texas), is dated to the mid-18th century and is of Comanche and possibly Apache occupation. Ongoing fieldwork has produced a vertebrate assemblage that includes taxa native to the region and domesticated horse (Equus caballus). Coyote (Canis latrans) remains have been recovered within the assemblage, along with those of a larger canid (Canis spp.) of a species that remains undetermined. Three species of canids may have been present at the time of deposition, C. lupus (grey wolf), C. latrans, and C. lupus familiaris (domestic dog). The grey wolf occurs in the region until extirpated in the early 20th century. The coyote is common regionally, both in modern fauna and within late Quaternary faunas. And, the Comanche and Apache are known to have traveled with domestic dog. The three species are closely related and their similar morphology and overlapping size ranges present a challenge in species identification. The Canis spp. is represented by 15 skeletal elements including a right astragalus, a proximal 4th metacarpal, vertebrae, ribs, and phalanges. In the absence of diagnostic elements such as a skull or mandible within the sample, three-dimensional landmark-based morphometric analysis is applied to the astragalus to determine the viability of the specimen as an indicator of species. Principal component analysis (PCA) is performed using astragali from modern comparative samples of C. lupus, C. latrans, and C. lupus familiaris in an attempt to characterize quantitative variation and ultimately, determine if species identification is possible. The methodology has proven useful in exploring the range of variation of C. lupus, C. latrans, and C. lupus familiaris and their relation with the Canis spp. specimen. Early results indicate that C. latrans is the least likely candidate, but a larger sample will be needed to confirm the distinction. The red wolf (C. rufus) is a remote possibility that cannot yet be ruled out. Red wolves are intermediate in size between grey wolves and coyotes. They range into central Texas historically as close as 115 miles east of Whiskey Flats. Once added to the dataset, a stronger case can be made for the identification of the Canis remains and their significance in the fauna.