Great Basin Naturalist


Crystal Ball Cave is located in a small outlier of the Snake Range in Snake Valley 1.7 km (1 mile) west of Lake Bonneville at its highest level. Original vertebrate skeletal material (mostly mammalian) has been found in shallow dry dust 61 m (200 feet) inside the cave. Radiocarbon dates show that fossils have been accumulating since at least 23,000 Y.B.P. It appears that wood rats and possibly small carnivores transported the fossils into the cave because only the smallest elements of large mammals are represented.

The fossil assemblage represents a much more boreal community than the present local fauna. Fish, Ondatra zibethicus, and Mustela cf. vison, which require perennial water, were recovered, as were Ochotona princeps, Lepus cf. americana, Microtus cf. pennsylvanicus, Vulpes vulpes, and Martes americana, which have also been extirpated from the Snake Range. Marmota flaviventris, Neotoma cinerea, cf. Cervus elaphus, and Ovis canadensis were recovered but now occur only at higher elevations in the range. Extinct taxa recovered are Smilodon cf. fatalis, Equus species, Camelops cf. hesternus, Hemiauchenia cf. macrocephala, cf. Symbos cavifrons, and a new species of Brachyprotoma, herein named B. brevimala. This is the first recovery of Brachyprotoma from the western United States.