Abstract

Although it is generally agreed that the Arctic flora is among the youngest and least diverse on Earth, the processes that shaped it are poorly understood. Here we present 50 thousand years (kyr) of Arctic vegetation history, derived from the first large-scale ancient DNA metabarcoding study of circumpolar plant diversity. For this interval we also explore nematode diversity as a proxy for modelling vegetation cover and soil quality, and diets of herbivorous megafaunal mammals, many of which became extinct around 10 kyr bp (before present). For much of the period investigated, Arctic vegetation consisted of dry steppe-tundra dominated by forbs (non-graminoid herbaceous vascular plants). During the Last Glacial Maximum (25–15 kyr bp), diversity declined markedly, although forbs remained dominant. Much changed after 10 kyr bp, with the appearance of moist tundra dominated by woody plants and graminoids. Our analyses indicate that both graminoids and forbs would have featured in megafaunal diets. As such, our findings question the predominance of a Late Quaternary graminoid-dominated Arctic mammoth steppe.

  • 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.

    , & in The Quaternary Period in the United States. Developments in Quaternary Science (eds , & ) 427–440 (Elsevier, 2003)

  2. 2.

    in Arctic and Alpine Biodiversity: Patterns, Causes and Ecosystem Consequences (eds & ) 21–32 (Springer, 1995)

  3. 3.

    & in Vegetation History. Handbook of Vegetation Science 7 (eds & ) 519–555 (Kluwer Academic, 1988)

  4. 4.

    , , & Palaeobotanical evidence for warm summers in the East Siberian Arctic during the last cold stage. Quat. Res. 63, 283–300 (2005)

  5. 5.

    et al. Diverse plant and animal genetic records from Holocene and Pleistocene sediments. Science 300, 791–795 (2003)

  6. 6.

    et al. Ancient DNA reveals late survival of mammoth and horse in interior Alaska. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 106, 22352–22357 (2009)

  7. 7.

    et al. A comparative study of ancient sedimentary DNA, pollen and macrofossils from permafrost sediments of northern Siberia reveals long-term vegetational stability. Mol. Ecol. 21, 1989–2003 (2012)

  8. 8.

    et al. Beringian paleoecology inferred from permafrost-preserved fungal DNA. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 71, 1012–1017 (2005)

  9. 9.

    et al. Meta-barcoding of ‘dirt’ DNA from soil reflects vertebrate biodiversity. Mol. Ecol. 21, 1966–1979 (2012)

  10. 10.

    et al. Glacial survival of boreal trees in northern Scandinavia. Science 335, 1083–1086 (2012)

  11. 11.

    et al. Ancient DNA chronology within sediment deposits: are paleobiological reconstructions possible and is DNA leaching a factor? Mol. Biol. Evol. 24, 982–989 (2007)

  12. 12.

    et al. DNA from soil mirrors plant taxonomic and growth form diversity. Mol. Ecol. 21, 3647–3655 (2012)

  13. 13.

    & Ancient DNA. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 272, 3–16 (2005)

  14. 14.

    et al. Using next-generation sequencing for molecular reconstruction of past Arctic vegetation and climate. Mol. Ecol. Resour. 10, 1009–1018 (2010)

  15. 15.

    et al. The farm beneath the sand—an archaeological case study on ancient ‘dirt’ DNA. Antiquity 83, 430–444 (2009)

  16. 16.

    et al. Paper II - Dirt, dates and DNA: OSL and radiocarbon chronologies of perennially frozen sediments in Siberia, and their implications for sedimentary ancient DNA studies. Boreas 40, 417–445 (2011)

  17. 17.

    in Paleoecology of Beringia (eds Hopkins, D. M., , & ) 3–28 (Academic, 1982)

  18. 18.

    & in Paleoecology of Beringia (eds , , , & ) 113–126 (Academic, 1982)

  19. 19.

    Frozen Fauna of the Mammoth Steppe (Univ. Chicago Press, 1990)

  20. 20.

    Diversity of nematode faunae under three vegetation types on a pallic soil in Otago, New Zealand. NZ J. Zool. 23, 401–407 (1996)

  21. 21.

    Influence of climatic conditions on nematode coexistence — a laboratory experiment with a coniferous forest soil. Oikos 44, 430–438 (1985)

  22. 22.

    Nematodes as soil indicators: functional and biodiversity aspects. Biol. Fertil. Soils 37, 199–210 (2003)

  23. 23.

    & Species assemblages and indicator species: the need for a flexible asymmetrical approach. Ecol. Monogr. 67, 345–366 (1997)

  24. 24.

    , & Simulated climate change in subarctic soils: responses in nematode species composition and dominance structure. Nematology 1, 513–526 (1999)

  25. 25.

    , , & Trampling and spatial heterogeneity explain decomposer abundances in a sub-Arctic grassland subjected to simulated reindeer grazing. Ecosystems 12, 830–842 (2009)

  26. 26.

    & Diversity and distribution of nematode communities in grasslands from Romania in relation to vegetation and soil characteristics. Appl. Soil Ecol. 14, 27–36 (2000)

  27. 27.

    & Nematode community composition in five alpine habitats. Nematology 6, 737–747 (2004)

  28. 28.

    et al. Molecular coproscopy: dung and diet of the extinct ground sloth Nothrotheriops shastensis. Science 281, 402–406 (1998)

  29. 29.

    et al. A molecular analysis of ground sloth diet through the last glaciation. Mol. Ecol. 9, 1975–1984 (2000)

  30. 30.

    et al. Analysing diet of small herbivores: the efficiency of DNA barcoding coupled with high-throughput pyrosequencing for deciphering the composition of complex plant mixtures. Front. Zool. 6, 16 (2009)

  31. 31.

    , , & Mammoth steppe: a high-productivity phenomenon. Quat. Sci. Rev. 57, 26–45 (2012)

  32. 32.

    Pleistocene extinctions: the pivotal role of megaherbivores. Paleobiology 13, 351–362 (1987)

  33. 33.

    & Recruitment and life-history traits of sparse plant species in subalpine grasslands. Can. J. Bot. 81, 171–182 (2003)

  34. 34.

    & Human-induced changes in large herbivorous mammal density: the consequences for decomposers. Front. Ecol. Environ. 2, 145–153 (2004)

  35. 35.

    P ratios in terrestrial plants: variation and functional significance. New Phytol. 164, 243–266 (2004)

  36. 36.

    et al. Leaf digestibility and litter decomposability are related in a wide range of subarctic plant species and types. Funct. Ecol. 18, 779–786 (2004)

  37. 37.

    , , & Changes in global nitrogen cycling during the Holocene epoch. Nature 495, 352–355 (2013)

  38. 38.

    Do herbivores cause habitat degradation or vegetation state transition? Evidence from the tundra. Oikos 114, 177–186 (2006)

  39. 39.

    et al. Induced shift in ecosystem productivity? Extensive scale effects of abundant large herbivores. Ecosystems 10, 773–789 (2007)

  40. 40.

    et al. IntCal09 and Marine09 radiocarbon age calibration curves, 0–50,000 years cal BP. Radiocarbon 51, 1111–1150 (2009)

  41. 41.

    et al. Power and limitations of the chloroplast trnL (UAA) intron for plant DNA barcoding. Nucleic Acids Res. 35, e14 (2007)

  42. 42.

    , , & Annotated Checklist of the Panarctic Flora (PAF) ((Natural History Museum, Univ. Oslo,, 2011)

  43. 43.

    et al. Database resources of the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Nucleic Acids Res. 37, D5–D15 (2009)

  44. 44.

    & An ordination of the upland forest communities of southern Wisconsin. Ecol. Monogr. 27, 325–349 (1957)

  45. 45.

    A new method for non-parametric multivariate analysis of variance. Austral. Ecol. 26, 32–46 (2001)

  46. 46.

    The analysis of proximities: multidimensional scaling with an unknown distance function. I. Psychometrika 27, 125–140 (1962)

  47. 47.

    The analysis of proximities: multidimensional scaling with an unknown distance function. II. Psychometrika 27, 219–246 (1962)

  48. 48.

    & The distance decay of similarity in biogeography and ecology. J. Biogeogr. 26, 867–878 (1999)

  49. 49.

    , & BIOLFLOR (Bundesamt für Naturschutz, 2002)

  50. 50.

    NGRIP. dating group, 2008. IGBP PAGES/World Data Center for Paleoclimatology Data Contribution Series # 2008-034. NOAA/NCDC Paleoclimatology Program, Boulder CO, USA. (2008)

  51. 51.

    et al. Ancient biomolecules from deep ice cores reveal a forested southern Greenland. Science 317, 111–114 (2007)

  52. 52.

    et al. New environmental metabarcodes for analysing soil DNA: potential for studying past and present ecosystems. Mol. Ecol. 21, 1821–1833 (2012)

  53. 53.

    Nematode assemblages in the rhizosphere of spring barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) depended on fertilisation and plant growth phase. Pedobiologia 48, 257–265 (2004)

  54. 54.

    , , & Current pretreatment methods for AMS radiocarbon dating at the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU). Radiocarbon 52, 103–112 (2010)

  55. 55.

    & Review of tropospheric bomb 14C data for carbon cycle modeling and age calibration purposes. Radiocarbon 46, 1273–1298 (2007)

  56. 56.

    , , & Free-shape 14C age–depth modelling of an intensively dated modern peat profile. J. Quaternary Sci. 24, 481–499 (2009)

  57. 57.

    et al. Blocking human contaminant DNA during PCR allows amplification of rare mammal species from sedimentary ancient DNA. Mol. Ecol. 21, 1806–1815 (2012)

  58. 58.

    in Methods in Molecular Biology – Ancient DNA (eds & ) 57–63 (Humana Press Series, 2012)

  59. 59.

    OligoTag: a program for designing sets of tags for next-generation sequencing of multiplexed samples. Methods Mol. Biol. 888, 13–31 (2012)

  60. 60.

    et al. Assessment of the food habits of the Moroccan dorcas gazelle in M’Sabih Talaa, west central Morocco, using the trnL approach. PLoS ONE 7, e35643 (2012)

  61. 61.

    Reproducibility of ancient DNA sequences from extinct Pleistocene fauna. Mol. Biol. Evol. 13, 283–285 (1996)

  62. 62.

    et al. The use of coded PCR primers enables high-throughput sequencing of multiple homolog amplification products by 454 parallel sequencing. PLoS ONE 2, e197 (2007)

  63. 63.

    Representation of flora and vegetation in Quaternary fossil assemblages: known and unknown knowns and unknowns. Quat. Sci. Rev. 49, 1–15 (2012)

  64. 64.

    & Quaternary Palaeoecology (London Edward Arnold, 2004)

  65. 65.

    & Properties and soil development of late-Pleistocene paleosols from Seward Peninsula, northwest Alaska. Geoderma 71, 219–243 (1996)

  66. 66.

    & Predicting the effects of increasing temporal scale on species composition, diversity, and rank-abundance distributions. Paleobiology 36, 672–695 (2010)

  67. 67.

    et al. Global negative vegetation feedback to climate warming responses of leaf litter decomposition rates in cold biomes. Ecol. Lett. 10, 619–627 (2007)

  68. 68.

    & The mineral nutrition of wild plants revisited: a re-evaluation of processes and patterns. Adv. Ecol. Res. 30, 1–67 (1999)

  69. 69.

    , , & WebLogo: a sequence logo generator. Genome Res. 14, 1188–1190 (2004)

  70. 70.

    et al. Evidence for general instability of past climate from a 250-kyr ice-core record. Nature 364, 218–220 (1993)

  71. 71.

    Multivariate analysis of ecological communities in R: vegan tutorial. R package version 1.17-7 (2011)

  72. 72.

    & A dendrite method for cluster analysis. Commun. Stat. 3, 1–27 (1974)

  73. 73.

    , & BiolFlor — a new plant-trait database as a tool for plant invasion ecology. Divers. Distrib. 10, 363–365 (2004)

  74. 74.

    , & Analysis of ecological communities. MjM Software, Gleneden Beach, Oregon, USA () (2002)

  75. 75.

    , & On resemblance measures for ecological studies, including taxonomic dissimilarities and a zero-adjusted Bray–Curtis coefficient for denuded assemblages. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 330, 55–80 (2006)

  76. 76.

    Inconsistencies between theory and methodology: a recurrent problem in ordination studies. J. Veg. Sci. 24, 251–268 (2013)

  77. 77.

    , & Compositional dissimilarity as a robust measure of ecological distance. Vegetatio 69, 57–68 (1987)

  78. 78.

    & Numerical Ecology (Elsevier, 1998)

  79. 79.

    , & Relationships between taxonomic resolution and spatial scales of multivariate variation. J. Anim. Ecol. 74, 636–646 (2005)

  80. 80.

    & in Biological Diversity: Frontiers in Measurement and Assessment ( & ) 39–54 (Oxford Univ. Press, 2011)

  81. 81.

    & The concepts of bias, precision and accuracy, and their use in testing the performance of species richness estimators, with a literature review of estimator performance. Ecography 28, 815–829 (2005)

  82. 82.

    , & Evaluating the performance of species richness estimators: sensitivity to sample grain size. J. Anim. Ecol. 75, 274–287 (2006)

  83. 83.

    Fossil: palaeoecological and palaeogeographical analysis tools. Palaeontol. Electronica 14 (1T). 16p (2011)

  84. 84.

    Tweedie: tweedie exponential family models. R package version 2.1.7 (2011)

  85. 85.

    , & Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities in plant roots are not random assemblages. FEMS Microbiol. Ecol. 78, 103–115 (2011)

  86. 86.

    , , , & Statistical assignment of DNA sequences using Bayesian phylogenetics. Syst. Biol. 57, 750–757 (2008)

  87. 87.

    labdsv: ordination and multivariate analysis for ecology. R package version 1.5-0 (2007)

  88. 88.

    Experiments in Ecology: Their Logical Design and Interpretation Using Analysis of Variance (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997)

  89. 89.

    et al. Prey preference of snow leopard (Panthera uncia) in South Gobi, Mongolia. PLoS ONE 7, e32104 (2012)

  90. 90.

    , & Weichselian geology and palaeoenvironmental history of the central Taymyr Peninsula, Siberia, indicating no glaciation during the last global glacial maximum. Boreas 28, 92–114 (1999)

  91. 91.

    et al. The late Pleistocene environment of the Eastern West Beringia based on the principal section at the Main River, Chukotka. Quat. Sci. Rev. 30, 2091–2106 (2011)

  92. 92.

    , & in Formation of Relief, Correlated Sediments and Placer Deposits of the Northern-East of the USSR, SVKNII DVO AN USSR, Magadan 117–131. (1989)

  93. 93.

    et al. Late Cenozoic of the Kolyma Lowland. XIV Pacific Science Congress, Khabarovsk 1–116. (1979)

  94. 94.

    , & The joint Russian-German expedition Beringia/Kolyma 2008 during the International Polar Year (IPY) 2007/2008. Reports on Polar and Marine Research 636, 43 (2011)

  95. 95.

    , & Late-Pleistocene (MIS 3-2) palaeoenvironments as recorded by sediments, palaeosols, and ground-squirrel nests at Duvanny Yar, Kolyma lowland, northeast Siberia. Quat. Sci. Rev. 30, 2107–2123 (2011)

  96. 96.

    Late Quaternary vegetation and climate history of the central Bering land bridge from St. Michael Island, western Alaska. Quat. Res. 60, 19–32 (2003)

  97. 97.

    , , , & A late Quaternary record of eolian silt deposition in a maar lake, St. Michael Island, western Alaska. Quat. Res. 60, 110–122 (2003)

  98. 98.

    , , & Full-glacial paleosols in perennially frozen loess sequences, Klondike goldfields, Yukon Territory, Canada. Quat. Res. 66, 147–157 (2006)

  99. 99.

    , , & Arctic ground squirrels of the mammoth-steppe: paleoecology of Late Pleistocene middens (24000–29450 14C yr BP), Yukon Territory, Canada. Quat. Sci. Rev. 26, 979–1003 (2007)

  100. 100.

    , & Seasonality of the late Pleistocene Dawson tephra and exceptional preservation of a buried riparian surface in central Yukon Territory, Canada. Quat. Sci. Rev. 25, 1542–1551 (2006)

  101. 101.

    et al. Optically stimulated luminescence dating of single and multiple grains of quartz from perennially frozen loess in western Yukon Territory, Canada: comparison with radiocarbon chronologies for the late Pleistocene Dawson tephra. Quat. Geochronol. 3, 346–364 (2008)

  102. 102.

    Holocene and recent carbon accumulation in Svalbard mires. Svalbard Geology Workshop, Tromso Norway 27–29 April. (2011)

  103. 103.

    et al. Environmental reconstruction inferred from the intestinal contents of the Yamal baby mammoth Lyuba (Mammuthus primigenius Blumenbach, 1799). Quat. Int. 255, 231–238 (2012)

  104. 104.

    et al. Woolly rhino discovery in the lower Kolyma River. Quat. Sci. Rev. 30, 2262–2272 (2011)

  105. 105.

    & Partial carcass of a small Pleistocene horse from Last Chance Creek near Dawson City, Yukon. Curr. Res. Pleistocene 13, 105–107 (1996)

  106. 106.

    & Age and dispersal of ‘mammoth’ fauna in Asian Polar region (according to radiocarbon data). Kriosfera Zemli 1, 12–19 (1997)

  107. 107.

    in: Mammals of the Yakutian Anthropogene (ed, ) 55–97 [in Russian] (Russian Acad. Sci., 1998)

  108. 108.

    , , & Living environments and diet of the Mongochen mammoth, Gydan Peninsula, Russia. Quat. Int. 276–277, 253–268 (2012)

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank A. Lister, R. D. Guthrie, M. Hofreiter and L. Parducci for thoughts and discussions on our findings and K. Andersen for help identifying possible contamination. We thank T. B. Brand, P. S. Olsen, V. Mirré, L. J. Gillespie, J. M. Saarela, J. Doubt, M. Lomonosova, D. Shaulo, J. E. Eriksen, S. Ickert-Bond, T. Ager, D. Bielman, M. Hajibabaei, A. Telka and S. Zimov for help and providing samples. We thank the Danish National Sequencing Centre. This work was supported by the European Union 6th framework project ECOCHANGE (GOCE-2006-036866, coordinated by P.T.), the Danish National Research Foundation (Centre of Excellence to E.W.), the European Regional Development Fund (Centre of Excellence FIBIR and IUT 20-28 to J.D., M.M. and M.Z.), the Research Council of Norway (191627/V40 to C.B.), the Australian Research Council (DP0558446 to R.G.R.), a Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship (PIOF-GA-2009-253376 to E.D.L.) and a Carlsberg Foundation Fellowship (to M.V.).

Author information

Author notes

    • Eske Willerslev
    • , John Davison
    • , Mari Moora
    • , Martin Zobel
    • , Eric Coissac
    • , Mary E. Edwards
    • , Eline D. Lorenzen
    • , Mette Vestergård
    • , Galina Gussarova
    • , James Haile
    • , Christian Brochmann
    •  & Pierre Taberlet

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

    • Sanne Boessenkool
    • , Laura S. Epp
    •  & Eva Bellemain

    Present addresses: Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, PO Box 1066, Blindern, NO-0318 Oslo, Norway (S.B.); Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Research Unit Potsdam, Telegrafenberg A 43, 14473 Potsdam, Germany (L.S.E.); SpyGen, Savoie Technolac, 17 allée du lac Saint André, BP 274, 73375 Le Bourget-du-Lac Cedex, France (E.B.).

    • Andrei Sher

    Deceased

Affiliations

  1. Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum, University of Copenhagen, Oster Voldgade 5-7, DK-1350 Copenhagen K, Denmark

    • Eske Willerslev
    • , Eline D. Lorenzen
    • , Mette Vestergård
    • , James Haile
    • , Morten Rasmussen
    • , Tobias Mourier
    • , M. Thomas P. Gilbert
    • , Kurt H. Kjær
    •  & Ludovic Orlando
  2. Department of Botany, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, 40 Lai Street, 51005 Tartu, Estonia

    • John Davison
    • , Mari Moora
    •  & Martin Zobel
  3. Laboratoire d’Ecologie Alpine (LECA) CNRS UMR 5553, University Joseph Fourier, BP 53, 38041 Grenoble Cedex 9, France

    • Eric Coissac
    • , Ludovic Gielly
    • , François Pompanon
    • , Delphine Rioux
    •  & Pierre Taberlet
  4. Geography and Environment, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK

    • Mary E. Edwards
    •  & Heather Binney
  5. Department of Integrative Biology, University of California Berkeley, 1005 Valley Life Sciences Building, Berkeley, 94720 California, USA

    • Eline D. Lorenzen
  6. National Centre for Biosystematics, Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, PO Box 1172, Blindern, NO-0318 Oslo, Norway

    • Galina Gussarova
    • , Sanne Boessenkool
    • , Laura S. Epp
    • , Eva Bellemain
    • , Reidar Elven
    • , Jørn Henrik Sønstebø
    •  & Christian Brochmann
  7. Department of Botany, Saint Petersburg State University, Universitetskaya nab. 7/9, 199034 Saint Petersburg, Russia

    • Galina Gussarova
  8. Ancient DNA Laboratory, Veterinary and Life Sciences School, Murdoch University, 90 South Street, Perth, 6150 Western Australia, Australia

    • James Haile
  9. Division of Biology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, 66506-4901 Kansas, USA

    • Joseph Craine
  10. Landscape Dynamics Unit, Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Zürcherstrasse 111, CH-8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland

    • Peter B. Pearman
  11. Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution de Montpellier, UMR 5554 Université Montpellier 2, Bat.22, CC061, Place Eugène Bataillon, 34095 Montpellier Cedex 5, France

    • Rachid Cheddadi
  12. University of Alaska Museum of the North, Fairbanks, 99775-6960 Alaska, USA

    • David Murray
  13. Department of Arctic and Marine Biology, UiT, The Arctic University of Norway, NO-9037 Tromsø, Norway

    • Kari Anne Bråthen
    •  & Nigel Yoccoz
  14. Genoscope, Institut de Genomique du Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique (CEA), 91000 Evry, France

    • Corinne Cruaud
    •  & Patrick Wincker
  15. Adam Mickiewicz University, Faculty of Physics, Umultowska 85, 61-614 Poznań, Poland

    • Tomasz Goslar
  16. Poznań Radiocarbon Laboratory, Poznań Science and Technology Park, Rubież 46, 61-612 Poznań, Poland

    • Tomasz Goslar
  17. Tromsø University Museum, NO-9037 Tromsø, Norway

    • Inger Greve Alsos
  18. Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1066, Blindern, NO-0316 Oslo, Norway

    • Anne Krag Brysting
  19. Permafrost Laboratory, Department of Geography, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9QJ, UK

    • Julian Murton
  20. Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences, 33 Leninsky Prospect, 119071 Moscow, Russia

    • Andrei Sher
  21. Department of Biology, Terrestrial Ecology, Universitetsparken 15, DK- 2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark

    • Regin Rønn
  22. Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, 5005 South Australia, Australia

    • Alan Cooper
    •  & Jeremy Austin
  23. Department of Geology/Quaternary Sciences, Lund University Sölvegatan 12, SE-223 62 Lund, Sweden

    • Per Möller
  24. Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, T6G 2E3 Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

    • Duane Froese
  25. Government of Yukon, Department of Tourism and Culture, Yukon Palaeontology Program, PO Box 2703 L2A, Y1A 2C6 Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada

    • Grant Zazula
  26. INRA, UMR1213 Herbivores, F-63122 Saint-Genès-Champanelle, France

    • Vincent Niderkorn
  27. Zoological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences, Universitetskaya nab. 1, 199034 Saint-Petersburg, Russia

    • Alexei Tikhonov
  28. Institute of Applied Ecology of the North of North-Eastern Federal University, Belinskogo Street 58, 677000 Yakutsk, Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Russia

    • Grigoriy Savvinov
  29. Centre for Archaeological Science, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, 2522 New South Wales, Australia

    • Richard G. Roberts
  30. Division of Vertebrate Zoology/Mammalogy, American Museum of Natural History, New York, 10024 New York, USA

    • Ross D. E. MacPhee

Authors

  1. Search for Eske Willerslev in:

  2. Search for John Davison in:

  3. Search for Mari Moora in:

  4. Search for Martin Zobel in:

  5. Search for Eric Coissac in:

  6. Search for Mary E. Edwards in:

  7. Search for Eline D. Lorenzen in:

  8. Search for Mette Vestergård in:

  9. Search for Galina Gussarova in:

  10. Search for James Haile in:

  11. Search for Joseph Craine in:

  12. Search for Ludovic Gielly in:

  13. Search for Sanne Boessenkool in:

  14. Search for Laura S. Epp in:

  15. Search for Peter B. Pearman in:

  16. Search for Rachid Cheddadi in:

  17. Search for David Murray in:

  18. Search for Kari Anne Bråthen in:

  19. Search for Nigel Yoccoz in:

  20. Search for Heather Binney in:

  21. Search for Corinne Cruaud in:

  22. Search for Patrick Wincker in:

  23. Search for Tomasz Goslar in:

  24. Search for Inger Greve Alsos in:

  25. Search for Eva Bellemain in:

  26. Search for Anne Krag Brysting in:

  27. Search for Reidar Elven in:

  28. Search for Jørn Henrik Sønstebø in:

  29. Search for Julian Murton in:

  30. Search for Andrei Sher in:

  31. Search for Morten Rasmussen in:

  32. Search for Regin Rønn in:

  33. Search for Tobias Mourier in:

  34. Search for Alan Cooper in:

  35. Search for Jeremy Austin in:

  36. Search for Per Möller in:

  37. Search for Duane Froese in:

  38. Search for Grant Zazula in:

  39. Search for François Pompanon in:

  40. Search for Delphine Rioux in:

  41. Search for Vincent Niderkorn in:

  42. Search for Alexei Tikhonov in:

  43. Search for Grigoriy Savvinov in:

  44. Search for Richard G. Roberts in:

  45. Search for Ross D. E. MacPhee in:

  46. Search for M. Thomas P. Gilbert in:

  47. Search for Kurt H. Kjær in:

  48. Search for Ludovic Orlando in:

  49. Search for Christian Brochmann in:

  50. Search for Pierre Taberlet in:

Contributions

The paper represents the joint efforts of several research groups, headed by various people within each group. Rather than publishing a number of independent papers, we have chosen to combine our data in this paper in the belief that this creates a more comprehensive story. The authorship reflects this joint effort. The ECOCHANGE team designed and initiated the project. E.W., M.E.E., J.M., E.D.L., M.V., G.G., J.H., J.C., I.G.A., P.M., D.F., G.Z., A.T., J.A., A.S., G.S., R.G.R., R.D.E.M., M.T.P.G., A.C. and K.H.K. collected the samples. G.G., R.E., A.K.B., J.H.S., C.B., L.G., E.C. and P.T. constructed the plant DNA taxonomic reference libraries and provided taxonomic assignments of the sediment data with input from I.G.A., E.B., S.B., L.S.E., M.E.E. and D.M. E.D.L., M.V., J.H., L.S.E., S.B., C.C., P.W., L.G., G.G. and J.H.S. conducted the genetics laboratory work. T.G. did the dating. F.P., D.R. and V.N. produced and analysed the data concerning the reliability of the trnL approach for estimating herbivore diet. J.D., M.M., M.Z., E.C., M.V., M.R., J.C., S.B., P.B.P., R.C., H.B., R.R., T.M. and P.T. did the analyses. E.D.L. and J.D. produced the figures. E.W. wrote most of the text with input from all authors, in particular J.D., M.M., M.Z., E.D.L., M.E.E., M.V., P.B.P., D.M., K.A.B., N.Y., L.O., C.B., P.T. and R.D.E.M.

Competing interests

The authors note that L.G. and P.T. are co-inventors of patents related to the gh primers and the use of the P6 loop of the chloroplast trnL (UAA) intron for plant identification using degraded template DNA. These patents only restrict commercial applications and have no impact on the use of this locus by academic researchers.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Eske Willerslev.

All the raw and filtered data concerning plants, nematodes, megafauna and sheep diet are available either from Extended Data and Supplementary Data, or from the Dryad Digital Repository: http://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.ph8s5.

Extended data

Supplementary information

Excel files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Data 1

    Sample information of the 242 Holarctic permafrost samples, classified by region and age group.

  2. 2.

    Supplementary Data 2

    Counts of sequence reads corresponding to 154 trnL chloroplast plant MOTUs derived from 242 Holarctic permafrost samples.

  3. 3.

    Supplementary Data 3

    Influence of LGM definition on analysis of plant community differences using Permanova and mean within period similarity.

  4. 4.

    Supplementary Data 4

    List of plant MOTUs, and their occurrence in the three palaeoclimatic periods, to which the sediment plastid trnL gh region reads were assigned.

  5. 5.

    Supplementary Data 5

    List of plant MOTUs, and their occurrence in the three palaeoclimatic periods, of the three families Asteraceae, Cyperaceae and Poaceae) to which the sediment ITS region reads were assigned.

  6. 6.

    Supplementary Data 6

    MOTU Identification and counts of sequences of DNA-based diet analysis of wholly mammoth, wholly rhinoceros, horse, and bison using coprolite/gut content.

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.