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Thriving or surviving? The isotopic record of the Wrangel Island woolly mammoth population

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Summary[edit]

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English: The world's last population of woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) lived on Wrangel Island persisting well into the Holocene, going extinct at ca. 4000 cal BP. According to the frequency of radiocarbon dated mammoth remains from the island, the extinction appears fairly abrupt. This study investigates the ecology of the Wrangel Island mammoth population by means of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur isotope analyses. We report new isotope data on 77 radiocarbon dated mammoth specimens from Wrangel Island and Siberia, and evaluate them in relation to previously published isotope data for Pleistocene mammoths from Beringia and lower latitude Eurasia, and the other insular Holocene mammoth population from St. Paul Island. Contrary to prior suggestions of gradual habitat deterioration, the nitrogen isotope values of the Wrangel Island mammoths do not support a decline in forage quality/quantity, and are in fact very similar to their north Beringian forebears right to the end. However, compared to Siberian mammoths, those from Wrangel Island show a difference in their energy economy as judged by the carbon isotope values of structural carbonate, possibly representing a lower need of adaptive strategies for survival in extreme cold. Increased mid-Holocene weathering of rock formations in the central mountains is suggested by sulfur isotope values. Scenarios related to water quality problems stemming from increased weathering, and a possibility of a catastrophic starvation event as a cause of, or contributing factor in their demise are discussed.
Date 15 October 2019
Source

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277379119301398

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2019.105884
Author Laura Arppe, Juha A. Karhu, Sergey Vartanyan, Dorothée G. Drucker, Heli Etu-Sihvola, Hervé Bocherens

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