We recently published a paper that makes the bridge between zoology and botany, using the scats of modern hyenas in Iran.
The striped hyaena is the largest living omnivorous scavenger in SW Asia. It generally lives in semiarid desert steppe regions, often denning in small caves, rock shelters, and burrows close to human settlements. Bone fragments of wild and domestic animals and desiccated scats are frequently found in the hyaena dens. In this study, eight striped hyaena dessicated scats were subjected to pollen analysis. All scats were rich in pollen and the exine was well-preserved with no visible sign of corrosion. Pollen spectra revealed interesting information on the regional and local vegetation, as well as the foraging behavior and diet of the animal. They reflected an array of different landscapes ranging from natural/semi-natural xerophytic desert steppes, agricultural fields, and grazing pastures. Some scats contained certain pollen taxa very rarely observed in wetland sediments, indicating the high potential of hyaena "copropalynology‟ in providing detailed information on the past floristic composition of the landscape. When comparing with archaeobotanical data from the area, the hyaena scat assemblages show that the general physiognomy of the landscape has remained almost unchanged since the 6th millennium B.C., with only minor changes in the composition or density of the woody components of the desert steppe. As most of the Holocene fossil coprolites in archaeological and palaeontological sites of SW Asia would have been left by striped hyaena, the study of the modern analogues of such accumulations in extant hyaena dens is helpful to correctly interpret the fossil faunal assemblages to reconstruct the palaeolandscapes, land-use change, and animal palaeoethology.
This new study is related to another earlier paper on the same hyena dens, where we analysed the patterns of bone accumulation by these carnivores. (Monchot and Mashkour M., 2010. Hyenas around the cities. The case of Kaftarkhoun (Kashan- Iran). Journal of Taphonomy : 8(1) 17-32.