Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Patterns of faunal extinction and paleoclimatic change from mid-Holocene mammoth and polar bear remains, Pribilof Islands, Alaska

  • Douglas W. Veltre (a1), David R. Yesner (a1), Kristine J. Crossen (a2), Russell W. Graham (a3) and Joan B. Coltrain (a4)...

Cave, a lava tube cave on St. Paul Island in the Pribilofs, has recently produced a mid-Holocene vertebrate faunal assemblage including woolly mammoth, polar bear, caribou, and Arctic fox. Several dates on the mammoth remains converge on 5700 14C yr BP. These dates, ~ 2300 yr younger than mammoth dates previously published from the Pribilof Islands, make these the youngest remains of proboscideans, and of non-extinct Quaternary megafauna, recovered from North America. Persistence of mammoths on the Pribilofs is most parsimoniously explained by the isolation of the Pribilofs and the lack of human presence in pre-Russian contact times, but an additional factor may have been the local existence of high-quality forage in the form of grasses enriched by nutrients derived from local Holocene tephras. This interpretation is reinforced by stable carbon and nitrogen isotope values obtained from the mammoth remains. The endpoint of mammoth survival in the Pribilofs is unknown, but maybe coterminous with the arrival of polar bears whose remains in the cave date to the Neoglacial cold period of ~ 4500 to 3500 14C yr BP. The polar bear record corroborates a widespread cooling of the Bering Sea region at that time.

Corresponding author
*Corresponding author. Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska Anchorage, 3211 Providence Avenue, Anchorage, Alaska 99508, USA. Fax: +1 907 786 6850. E-mail (D.R. Yesner).
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

L.C. Bliss , J.H. Richards , (1982). Present-day Arctic vegetation and ecosystems as a predictive tool for the Arctic-steppe Mammoth Biome.. D.M. Hopkins , J.V. Mathews , C.E. Schweger , S.B. Young Paleoecology of Beringia Academic Press, New York.241257.

J.B. Coltrain , M.G. Hayes , D.H. O'Rourke , (2003). Sealing, whaling, and caribou: the skeletal isotope chemistry of Eastern Arctic foragers.. Journal of Archaeological Science 31, 3957.

J.B. Coltrain , J.M. Harris , T.E. Cerling , J.R. Ehleringer , M. Dearing , J. Ward , J. Allen , (2004). Trophic level relationships among Rancho La Brea fauna and their implications for the paleoecology of the late Pleistocene based on bone collagen stable carbon and nitrogen isotope chemistry.. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 205, 199219.

S.J. Crockford , S.G. Frederick , (2007). Sea ice expansion in the Bering Sea during the Neoglacial: evidence from archaeozoology.. The Holocene 17, 699706.

G.M. Dawson , (1894). Notes on the occurrence of mammoth remains in the Yukon District of Canada and Alaska.. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 50, 19.

D.E. Dumond , D.G. Griffin , (2002). Measurements of the marine reservoir effect on radiocarbon ages in the eastern Bering Sea.. Arctic 55, 7786.

R.D. Guthrie , (1968). Paleoecology of the large mammal community in interior Alaska during the late Pleistocene.. American Midland Naturalist 79, 343363.

R.D. Guthrie , (2004). Radiocarbon evidence of mid-Holocene mammoths stranded on an Alaskan Bering Sea island.. Nature 429, 746749.

T.H. Heaton , S.L. Talbot , G.F. Shields , (1996). An Ice Age refugium for large mammals in the Alexander Archipelago, Southeast Alaska.. Quaternary Research 46, 186192.

C. Heusser , (1990). Late Quaternary vegetation of the Aleutian Islands, Alaska.. Canadian Journal of Botany 68, 13201326.

K.A. Hoppe , (2004). Isotopic variability, herd structure, and migration patterns of Late Pleistocene mammoths from multiple death assemblages.. Paleobiology 30, 129145.

K.A. Hoppe , P.L. Koch , R.W. Carlson , S.D. Webb , (1999). Tracking mammoths and mastodons: reconstruction of migratory behavior using strontium isotope ratios.. Geology 27, 439442.

K.A. Hughen , (2004). Marine reservoir corrections for CALIB radiocarbon calibration program.. Radiocarbon 46, 10591086.

J.B. Innes , R.C. Chiverell , J.J. Blackford , P.J. Davey , S. Gonzalez , M.M. Rutherford , P.R. Tomlinson , (2004). Earliest Holocene vegetation history and island biogeography of the Isle of Man, British Isles.. Journal of Biogeography 31, 761772.

C.N. Johnson , (2002). Determinants of loss of mammal species during the Late Quaternary megafaunal extinctions: life history and ecology, but not body size.. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B-Biological Sciences 269, 22212227.

J. Krause , P.H. Dear , J.L. Pollack , M. Slatkin , H. Spriggs , I. Barnes , A.M. Lister , I. Ebersberger , S. Pääbo , M. Hofrieter , (2006). Multiplex amplification of the mammoth mitochondrial genome and the evolution of Elephantidae.. Nature 439, 724727.

H. Kubiak , (1982). Morphological characters of the mammoth: an adaptation to the Arctic-steppe environment.. D.M. Hopkins , J.V. Mathews , C.E. Schweger , S.B. Young Paleoecology of Beringia Academic Press, New York.281289.

V.J. Maglio , (1973). Origin and evolution of the Elephantidae.. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 63, 1149. Philadelphia.

D.H. Mann , T.D. Hamilton , (1995). Late Pleistocene and Holocene paleoenvironments of the North Pacific coast.. Quaternary Science Reviews 14, 449471.

R.D. MacPhee , A.N. Tikhonov , D. Mol , C. de Marliave , H. van der Plicht , A.D. Greenwood , C. Flemming , L. Agenbroad , (2002). Radiocarbon chronologies and extinction dynamics of the late Quaternary mammalian megafauna of the Taimyr Peninsula, Russian Federation.. Journal of Archaeological Sciences 29, 10171042.

P.S. Martin , A.J. Stuart , (1995). Mammoth extinction: two continents and Wrangel Island.. Radiocarbon 37, 710.

G.H. Miller , (1999). Pleistocene extinction of Genyornis newtoni: human impact on Australian megafauna.. Science 283, 205208.

R.C.D. Olivier , (1982). Ecology and behavior of living elephants: bases for assumptions concerning the extinct woolly mammoths.. D.M. Hopkins , J.V. Mathews , C.E. Schweger , S.B. Young Paleoecology of Beringia Academic Press, New York.291306.

M. Noro , R. Masuda , I.A. Dubrovo , M.C. Yoshida , M. Kato , (1998). Molecular phylogenetic inference of the woolly mammoth Mammuthus primigenius, based on complete sequences of mitochondrial cytochrome b and 12S ribosomal RNA genes.. Journal of Molecular Evolution, 46, 314326.

C.E. Ray , (1971). Polar bear and mammoth on the Pribilof Islands.. Arctic 24, 918.

P.J. Reimer , (2004). IntCal04 terrestrial radiocarbon age calibration, 0–26 Cal Kyr BP.. Radiocarbon 46, 10291058.

A.J. Stuart , L.D. Sulerzhitsky , L.A. Orlova , Y.V. Kuzmin , A.M. Lister , (2002). The latest woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius Blumenbach) in Europe and Asia: a review of the current evidence.. Quaternary Science Reviews 21, 15591569.

A.J. Stuart , P.A. Kosintsev , T.F.G. Higham , A.M. Lister , (2004). Pleistocene to Holocene extinction dynamics in giant deer and woolly mammoth.. Nature 431, 684689.

M. Stuiver , (1998). INTCAL98 radiocarbon age calibration.. Radiocarbon 40, 215230.

M. Stuiver , T.F. Braziunas , (1993). Modeling atmospheric 14C influences and 14C ages of marine samples to 10,000 BC.. Radiocarbon 35, 137189.

S.L. Talbot , G.F. Shields , (1996). Phylogeography of brown bears (Ursus arctos) of Alaska and paraphyly within the Ursidae.. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 5, 477494.

S.L. Vartanyan , V.E. Garutt , A.V. Sher , (1993). Holocene dwarf mammoths from Wrangel Island in the Siberian Arctic.. Nature 362, 337339.

S.L. Vartanyan , K.A. Arslanov , T.V. Tertychnaya , S.B. Chernov , (1995). Radiocarbon dating evidence for mammoths on Wrangel Island, Arctic Ocean, until 2000 BC.. Radiocarbon 37, 16.

D.W. Veltre , A.P. McCartney , (2002). Russian exploitation of Aleuts and fur seals: the archaeology of Eighteenth and early Nineteenth-century settlements in the Pribilof Islands, Alaska.. Historical Archaeology 36, 817.

N.K. Vereschagin , G.F. Baryshnikov , (1982). Paleoecology of the mammoth fauna in the Eurasian Arctic.. D.M. Hopkins , J.V. Matthews , C.E. Schweger , S.B. Young Paleoecology of Beringia Academic Press, New York.267279.

G.S. Winer , T.C. Feeley , M.A. Cosca , (2004). Basaltic volcanism in the Bering Sea: geochronology and volcanic evolution of St. Paul Island, Pribilof Islands, Alaska.. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 134, 277301.

D.R. Yesner , (2001). Human dispersal into interior Alaska: antecedent conditions, mode of colonization, and adaptations.. Quaternary Science Reviews 20, 315327.

Y.P. Zhang , O.A. Ryder , (1994). Phylogenetic relationships of bears (the Ursidae) inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequences.. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 3, 351359.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Quaternary Research
  • ISSN: 0033-5894
  • EISSN: 1096-0287
  • URL: /core/journals/quaternary-research
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 1 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 20 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 20th January 2017 - 27th March 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.