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Who or What Killed The Wrangel Island Mammoths?

  1. Feb 10, 2009 #1
    Wrangel Island in the Siberian Arctic was the last refuge of the mammoths until just a few thousand years ago. Wikipedia Dwarf Elephants states that the island became separated from the mainland around 12,000 B.P. Is it reasonable to assume that they were saved from hunting due to the rising sea levels of deglaciation? Wikipedia Wrangel Island

    This http://packrat.aml.arizona.edu/Journal/v37n1/vartanyan.html [Broken] concludes:
    Was it man or was it the weather?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 10, 2009 #2
    That overhunt idea is so mighty persistent. What is the evidence of hunting of mammoths in Siberia? Most of the fossil mammoth remains are on places where there were no human/aerchelogoical remains found, and furthermore, as far as I know, the only known modified mammoth bone by possible hunting in Siberia is this vertebra:


    http://www.yukonmuseums.ca/mammoth/abstrt-z.htm#82 [Broken]

    So did this fluted point spear penetrate through the fur, skin, lung, to enter the vertebra with considerable force? Or was it target practice?

    The last Mammoth remains in North Siberia are early Holocene ~11,200 cal BP when the mammoth steppe gave way to marshes, swamps and boreal forest (McDonald et al 2000) due to the severe climate changes, especially the increase in rain. This could be attributed to Atlantic waters penetrating high into the Arctic. Islands like Wrangel are having their own climate logic. Apparantly the conditions were so that the steppes stayed, providing the proper niche for the Mammoths.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  4. Feb 10, 2009 #3
    Mammoths also survived on the Bering Sea island of Saint Paul until 6000 B.C.E. Wikipedia Dwarf Elephants states:

    Last edited: Feb 10, 2009
  5. Feb 10, 2009 #4
    Again no, islands don't share the climate of the mainland because of the limited size.
  6. Feb 10, 2009 #5
    The evidence for human caused extinction is not at all robust. It is probable that human predation contributed to the extinction, but climate change is believed to be the major contributing factor.

    I would tend to agree with Andre that the island micro climates are the likely answer.
  7. Feb 10, 2009 #6


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    Large bodies of water act as thermal "flywheels", damping rapid swings in temperature. Here in Maine, we have had some record cold this winter, but it has all been well inland. Coastal areas are routinely significantly warmer. I would tend to give credence to the island microclimate concept just from experience.
  8. Feb 12, 2009 #7
    Why are mammoths found to survive longest on a northern polar arctic island then? The climate argument doesn't make sense. Mammoths should have survived longest at more southerly latitudes if this was correct. There should even be mammoths alive today.
  9. Feb 12, 2009 #8
    The Siberian mammoth died out 11,000 years ago due to the destruction of its habitat, the cold and dry steppe of North Siberia, when the warm atlantic waters penetrated deeply into the Artic, causing torrential rains (McDonald et al 2000).

    The generation of rain clouds is sometimes depending on warmer airmasses above the ocean, cooling above land. Small islands don't have enough "inertia" for that and are often drier. That could have caused Wrangel island to remain drier, retaining its steppe.
  10. Feb 13, 2009 #9
    Do you have a direct link for this report? The end of the ice age should be linked with a declining Atlantic current in my opinion.
    I don't think any expert would agree with this idea. Show me one if you can.

    Professor Guthrie of Alaska University states in his book 'Frozen Fauna of the Mammoth Steppe':

    Attached Files:

  11. Feb 13, 2009 #10
    Download them and memorize them, this is the umpteenth time that I refer to McDonald et al 2000 which in the introduction already refers to Atlantic waters penetrating deep into the Arctic. We are running around in circles again, which is also true for the rest of your post. There is not a single human remain or artifact around at Taymyr in the early Holocene, the place where the last Siberian mammoth died out.

    Try http://epic.awi.de/Publications/Kie2005a.pdf [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  12. Feb 14, 2009 #11
    Is it you or is it me who is delusional? There is no reference to this in the introduction.
    The last mammoth is known to have died out on Wrangel Island, thousands of years after the last mammoths died out on the island of Saint Paul, which itself was thousands of years later than the mainland mammoths.

    There is the common sense logical argument of course: Why did the megafauna take millions of years to evolve, surviving a multitude of earlier glacial cycles, but just happen to die off when humans became technologically advanced?

    The Wrangel Island refuge became isolated by rising sea levels around 12,000 years ago. This coincides with the development of sewing, so that humans could have fully protective clothing and transportable shelter. This technological advance also took place around 12,000 years ago. It's just too much of a coincidence in my mind. The megafauna would have retreated but been caught at the bottle-neck of Beringia into the American continent. Human populations would have swelled until all the large mammals were gone. It's the simplest, most logical conclusion.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2009
  13. Feb 14, 2009 #12


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    I wonder... These islands are not very large. Were they able to sustain reasonably large populations for a long time? And by reasonably large I mean - large enough, so that they won't be endangered by interbreeding. Mammoth is a large animal, and as such requires a lot of terrain to feed on, especially in the harsh climate.

    Edit: OK, I read some more. Wrangel island mammoths were smaller (not surprisingly).
  14. Feb 14, 2009 #13
    No they were not smaller, a widespread misconception based on a misinterpreation of a small molar of a senile mammoth. It was later corrected but as usual, the wrong hypotheses will never die.


    The last mammoths of the species Mammuthus primigenius (Woolly mammots) were clearly smaller than their ancestors, the Mammuthus meridionalis and Mammuthus trogontheri. Moreover the earlier woolly mammoths ca 350ka ago were generally much larger than the last ca 10,000 years ago
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2009
  15. Feb 14, 2009 #14


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    So we are back to the question whether island was large enough to sustain the population.
  16. Feb 16, 2009 #15
    As usual things may be a lot more complex, take for instance some recent publications:

    Enk et al 2009


    Germonpré et al 2008

    which begs the question: if the mammoth went extinct due to overhunting, wouldn't that require the finding of many more of this kind of sites all over Siberia? However, just about all other remains in the north don't show any signs of hunting.
  17. Feb 17, 2009 #16
    Firstly, I apologise for using the word 'delusional' in post #11, it was only meant in light jest. It would appear that you have given the wrong report link in post #10. Also, why do you keep avoiding my main argument? You haven't answered my question, namely:

    Why did the megafauna take millions of years to evolve, surviving a multitude of earlier glacial cycles, but just happen to die off when humans became technologically advanced?

    Although I have a lot of respect for your knowledge, it is a paradox which needs answering. BTW a simple answer to the apparent lack of hunting wounds could be due to the large size of the animal. It would be difficult to penetrate all the way to the bone (but please answer my question first before you reply to this quick speculation).
  18. Mar 4, 2009 #17
  19. Mar 4, 2009 #18
    Well, I think that the article is rather speculative. Remember that the Mammoth was completely specialized on steppe and steppe only. It's diet as recovered from several independent mummies invariable produce remains of steppe vegetation. Also the large gender diversity of the tusks versus near equal tusks of Elephants hint to that



    Paintings by Adrie & Alfons Kennis (Twins) of a female and the Yukagir male mammoth based on anatomical correct reconstructions. Those guys are real good.

    One could speculate that the no-nonsense rather straight tusks of elephants are suitable of bringing down trees, especially those of the extinct straight tusked or forest Elephant (Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) antiquus). But the Woolly Mammoth had other plans for its tusks without trees on the steppe. Female tusks degenerated while males develloped big ornaments for a better competition. However, how would you walk around in forests with those large curls. If you trap a tree a inside how would you get loose again?

    So the Siberian mammoth must have been rather annoyed when the large dry steppe suddenly turned into marshes, swamps and boreal forests at the beginning of the Holocene (Mac Donald et al 2000 see older posts)
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  20. Mar 4, 2009 #19


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    Annoyed to death?
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