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Pattern of extinction of the woolly mammoth in Beringia.

  • Author(s): MacDonald, GM
  • Beilman, DW
  • Kuzmin, YV
  • Orlova, LA
  • Kremenetski, KV
  • Shapiro, B
  • Wayne, RK
  • Van Valkenburgh, B
  • et al.
Abstract

Extinction of the woolly mammoth in Beringia has long been subject to research and speculation. Here we use a new geo-referenced database of radiocarbon-dated evidence to show that mammoths were abundant in the open-habitat of Marine Isotope Stage 3 (∼45-30 ka). During the Last Glacial Maximum (∼25-20 ka), northern populations declined while those in interior Siberia increased. Northern mammoths increased after the glacial maximum, but declined at and after the Younger Dryas (∼12.9-11.5 ka). Remaining continental mammoths, now concentrated in the north, disappeared in the early Holocene with development of extensive peatlands, wet tundra, birch shrubland and coniferous forest. Long sympatry in Siberia suggests that humans may be best seen as a synergistic cofactor in that extirpation. The extinction of island populations occurred at ∼4 ka. Mammoth extinction was not due to a single cause, but followed a long trajectory in concert with changes in climate, habitat and human presence.

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