The Origin and Evolution of the Woolly Mammoth

Science  02 Nov 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5544, pp. 1094-1097
DOI: 10.1126/science.1056370

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The mammoth lineage provides an example of rapid adaptive evolution in response to the changing environments of the Pleistocene. Using well-dated samples from across the mammoth's Eurasian range, we document geographical and chronological variation in adaptive morphology. This work illustrates an incremental (if mosaic) evolutionary sequence but also reveals a complex interplay of local morphological innovation, migration, and extirpation in the origin and evolution of a mammalian species. In particular, northeastern Siberia is identified as an area of successive allopatric innovations that apparently spread to Europe, where they contributed to a complex pattern of stasis, replacement, and transformation.

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