PALEOECOLOGY

Climate change and megafaunal extinction

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Science  26 Aug 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6302, pp. 883-884
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6302.883-c

Wooly mammoths survived on St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea for thousands of years after other populations went extinct.

CREDIT: FUNKMONK/WIKICOMMONS

Woolly mammoths went extinct on the Asian and North American mainlands at the end of the last glaciation 13 to 14 thousand years ago. However, small relict populations are known to have survived for several thousand more years on the Beringian islands between the two continents. Graham et al. used a suite of paleoenvironmental proxy data to determine that the final extinction of mammoths on St. Paul Island occurred 5600 ± 100 years ago. There is no evidence of human occupation on St. Paul at that time, so hunting can be ruled out as a cause of the mammoths' disappearance from the island. Instead, their demise was caused by climate change and rising sea level acting synergistically to deplete freshwater resources.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 10.1073/pnas.1604903113 (2016).

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