Monday, 5 September 2005 - 3:00 PM

This presentation is part of: Terrestrial Sciences

Spatial-temporal features of the Pleistocene megafauna extinction in Northern Asia: an overview

Lyobov A. Orlova, Institute of Geology, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk, 630090, Russia, Yaroslav V. Kuzmin, Pacific Institute of Geography, Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladivostok, 690041, Russia, and Vyacheslav N. Dementiev, Centre for GIS Technologies, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk, 630090, Russia.

The corpus of 14C dates for several megafaunal species in Siberia include hundreds of values, with largest amount available for woolly mammoth (ca. 580), and less for other species: woolly rhinoceros – ca. 45; Pleistocene bison – ca. 75; and Pleistocene horse – ca. 80. Reliable spatial-temporal reconstruction of habitat dynamics and extinction patterns is possible mainly for mammoth. Before ca. 12,000 BP, mammoths occupied almost all the Northern Eurasia. Afterwards, they generally moved northward, to modern Arctic and sub-Arctic. Biggest mammoth populations inhabited the High Arctic, Taymyr and Yamal peninsulas, until ca. 9700 BP. However, some isolated (?) populations survived in the temperate latitudes at ca. 12,000-10,000 BP, especially in northern Russian Plain (Cherepovets, ca. 9800 BP; and Puurmani, 10,100 BP) and Western Siberia (Lugovskoe, ca. 11,800-10,200 BP; Sosva River, ca. 11,100 BP; Konzhul, ca. 12,000 BP; and Volchya Griva, ca. 11,800-11,100 BP) (Orlova et al. 2004). After ca. 9700 BP, only two small populations of mammoth remains, at the Wrangel Island (ca. 7700-3700 BP) (Vartanyan et al. 1993) and at the St. Paul Island (Pribilof Islands, Bering Sea) (ca. 7900-5000 BP) (Guthrie 2004; Yesner et al. 2005). The 14C dating of woolly rhinoceros remains shows that two youngest dates are known not from arctic regions but from temperate zone, the central West Siberia (Lugovskoe, ca. 10,800 BP) and southern Urals (Zlatoustovka, ca. 12,300 BP). It can be assumed that the final extinction of rhinoceros could be as late as the end of the Late Glacial (Orlova et al. 2004). Tentative analysis of Pleistocene bison 14C chronology allows us to conclude that in most of Siberia bison went extinct by ca. 15,000-11,600 BP. The latest 14C value of ca. 8900 BP comes from the Popigai River basin, northern East Siberia. As for the giant deer, previously it was suggested that its main habitat was located in Western Europe, where it went extinct at ca. 10,600-10,300 BP. Recently it was found that the final extinction of giant deer took place in southern Urals and Trans-Urals (piedmonts of the Ural Mountains in Western Siberia) at ca. 8000-6800 BP (Stuart et al. 2004). It is obvious that Siberian Arctic was not the “last stronghold” for the Pleistocene megafauna. The process of final extinction of some species was quite complex, with isolated ‘pockets' survived outside of the main habitat range for several millennia. This research is funded by RFFI (grants 03-06-80289 and 03-05-64434).

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