Letter

Holocene dwarf mammoths from Wrangel Island in the Siberian Arctic

  • Nature volume 362, pages 337340 (25 March 1993)
  • doi:10.1038/362337a0
  • Download Citation
Received:
Accepted:
Published:

Abstract

THE cause of extinction of the woolly mammoth, Mammuthus primigenius (Blumenbach), is still debated. A major environmental change at the Pleistocene–Holocene boundary, hunting by early man, or both together are among the main explanations that have been suggested. But hardly anyone has doubted that mammoths had become extinct everywhere by around 9,500 years before present (BP). We report here new discoveries on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean that force this view to be revised. Along with normal-sized mammoth fossils dating to the end of the Pleistocene, numerous teeth of dwarf mammoth dated 7,000–4,000 yr BP have been found there. The island is thought to have become separated from the mainland by 12,000 yr BP. Survival of a mammoth population may be explained by local topography and climatic features, which permitted relictual preservation of communities of steppe plants. We interpret the dwarfing of the Wrangel mammoths as a result of the insularity effect, combined with a response to the general trend towards unfavourable environment in the Holocene.

  • Subscribe to Nature for full access:

    $199

    Subscribe

Additional access options:

Already a subscriber?  Log in  now or  Register  for online access.

References

  1. 1.

    , & Geol. Surv. Denmark 14, 1–44 (1990).

  2. 2.

    CBA Res. Rep. 77, 51–59 (1991).

  3. 3.

    , , & Archaeometry 29, 125–155 (1987).

  4. 4.

    & Priroda 1, 52–55 (1991).

  5. 5.

    & Pleistocene Mammals of North America (Columbia Univ. Press, New York, 1980).

  6. 6.

    Frozen Fauna of the Mammoth Steppe: The Story of Blue Babe (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1990).

  7. 7.

    Vest Akad Nauk SSSR (in Russian) 1, 60–62 (1938).

  8. 8.

    in Extreme North-East of the U.S.S.R. Vol. I Wrangel Island (in Russian) 25–48 (USSR Acad. Sci. Publishing, 1952).

  9. 9.

    , , & in Secular Dynamics of Biogeocenoses. The 10th Sukachev Readings (in Russian) 52–53 (Nauka, Moscow, 1992).

  10. 10.

    , & Bull. zool. Nomencl. 47, 38–44 (1990).

  11. 11.

    in Major Patterns in Vertebrate Evolution (eds Hecht, M. K., Goody, P. C. & Hecht, B. M.) 671–706 (Plenum, New York. 1977).

  12. 12.

    Proc. R. Soc. 73, 498–500 (1903).

  13. 13.

    , , & 5th Int. Theriol. Congr. Abstr. 1, 141–142 (1989).

  14. 14.

    & Science 68, 140–141 (1928).

  15. 15.

    in Body Size in Mammalian Paleobiology: Estimation and Biological Implications (eds Damuth, J. & MacFadden, B. J.) 151–179 {Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 1990).

  16. 16.

    Trudy Geol. Inst. AN SSSR (in Russian) 48, 1–183 (1961).

  17. 17.

    in Anthropogene Period in the Arctic and Subarctic (in Russian) 106–130 (Nedra, Moscow, 1965).

  18. 18.

    Nature 342, 539–542 (1989).

  19. 19.

    Quat. Res. 3, 520–540 (1973).

  20. 20.

    in The 22nd Arctic Workshop 1992, 125–127 (University of Colorado, Boulder, 1992).

  21. 21.

    & in The Arctic Ocean and its Coast in the Cenozoic Era (in Russian) 509–515 (Gidrometeoizdat, Leningrad, 1970) (in English: Amerind Publishing, New Delhi, 1982).

  22. 22.

    in Paleoecology of Behngia (eds Hopkins, D. M., Matthews, J. V. Jr. Schweger, C. E. & Young, S. B.) 157–177 (Academic, New York, 1982).

  23. 23.

    & Trudy Zool. Inst. AN SSSR (in Russian) 131, 93–103 (1977).

  24. 24.

    Mammoths, Mastodonts, and Elephants: Biology, Behavior, and the Fossil Record (Cambridge Univ. Press. Cambridge, 1991).

  25. 25.

    Radiocarbon: Geochemistry and Geochronology (in Russian) (Leningrad State Univ. Press, Leningrad, 1987)

  26. 26.

    in Anthropogene Period in the Arctic and Subarctic (in Russian) 89–105 (Nedra, Moscow, 1965).

  27. 27.

    Trudy Zool. Inst. AN SSSR (in Russian) 73, 3–36 (1977).

  28. 28.

    & Dokl. AN SSSR 285, 221–225 (1985).

  29. 29.

    & Research of the Teeth of Extinct Elephants: Methodical Recommendations (in Russian) (Inst. Geol. i Geofiz. SO AN SSSR, Novosibirsk, 1976).

  30. 30.

    & in Structure, Function and Evolution of Teeth (eds Smith, P. & Tchernov, E.) 185–213 (Freund, Jerusalem, 1992).

  31. 31.

    in Beringia in the Cenozoic Era (in Russian) 227–241 (USSR Academy of Sciences, Far-Eastern Scientific Center, Vladivostok, 1976) (in English: Amerind Publishing. New Delhi, 1984).

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Wrangel Island State Reserve, 686870 Ushakovskoye, Magadan Region, Russia

    • S. L. Vartanyan
  2. Zoological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, 1 Universitetskaya naberezhnaya, 199034 St Petersburg, Russia

    • V. E. Garutt
  3. Severtsov Institute of Evolutionary Animal Morphology and Ecology, Russian Academy of Sciences, 33 Leninskiy Prospect, 117071 Moscow, Russia

    • A. V. Sher

Authors

  1. Search for S. L. Vartanyan in:

  2. Search for V. E. Garutt in:

  3. Search for A. V. Sher in:

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.