Oral Presentation- Symposium 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Climatic and vegetational drivers of mammoth range reduction in the approach to extinction (#400)

Adrian Lister 1
  1. Natural History Museum, London, London, United Kingdom

Mapping a global database of some 2,000 audited radiocarbon dates indicates major shifts in mammoth range after 40 ka, corresponding to climatic and vegetational events and suggesting these as the main driving force. The species vacated much of Europe for the interval 21.5-19.5 ka, corresponding to the maximum extent of the European ice sheet. The range then re-expanded and remained widespread into the Bølling warming (14.6-13.9 ka). With the afforestation of the Allerød (13.9-12.8 ka), however, Europe and western Siberia were completely vacated by mammoths; this suggests that it was the vegetational change triggered by, but lagging behind, global warming that reduced mammoth range. The Younger Dryas (GS-1, 12.8-11.7 ka) saw the extirpation of mammoths in North America, and Eurasian populations restricted to northernmost Siberia, with a short-lived re-invasion of north-east Europe. By 11 ka (within the earliest Holocene), the mammoth was extinct in mainland Eurasia. Terminal island populations in the Beringian region expired on St Paul (Pribilof Islands) around 5.6 ka and Wrangel Island around 4 ka. Although distributional gaps are hard to deduce from fossil data, the terminal distribution of M. primigenius is consistent with fragmentation as well as severe range reduction prior to extinction. Such reduction to small, refugial populations led to their sequential extirpation by climatic, stochastic, or potentially anthropogenic effects.