Mammoths were "world citizens" of the ice age

No large mammal was more widespread than the mammoths during the last ice age

The woolly mammoth was the most widely used large mammal of the Ice Age © Mauricio Antón / PLoS Biology 6 (4): e99. DOI: 10.1371 / journal.pbio.006009
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The Mammoth is rightly the star among the Ice Age animals: none of them was as widespread then as this shaggy mammoth. This proves the most accurate map yet for the worldwide distribution of mammoths. Accordingly, the glacial pachyderms populated an area of ​​more than 33 million square kilometers, making them the most successful large mammals of this era, as researchers report in the journal "Quaternary International".

Mammoth are considered the symbolic animals for the last Ice Age - and not only since the Ice Age films Hollywood. The gigantic tusks and skeletons of these glacial pachyderms have long awaken the fascination of researchers and laymen alike. Most of the best-preserved mammoth relics come from the permafrost soil of Siberia. But mammoths and bones have also been discovered in the middle of the US city of Seattle, on the Greek island of Crete and even in southern Spain.

Where was mammoth everywhere?

The extent to which these trunks were actually spread in the period from 110, 000 to 12, 000 years ago has now been compiled by Ralf-Dietrich Kahlke from the Senckenberg Research Station for Quaternary Paleontology in Weimar for the first time in a world map. The basis for the map is the decades-long inventory of thousands of sites of the Mammuthus primigenius on three continents.

"Even sites under water, off the North American Atlantic coast and the North Sea, were taken into account, " says Kahlke. "These areas were dry during the Ice Age due to the lower sea levels - large amounts of water were bound in the glaciers - and were also populated by Mammuthus primigenius."

The Siberian permafrost contains the best-preserved mammoth finds in the world R.-D. Kahlke / Senckenberg Weimar

33 million square kilometers

The result: In total, the glacial pachyderms occupied an area of ​​33, 301, 000 square kilometers almost 100 times the area of ​​today's Germany. "These results show that mammoths were the most widespread grooms during the last ice age, " says Kahlke. The mammoth is thus completely to the right the symbol animal of the ice age. display

The range of the mammoths ranged from Portugal in the southwest over Central and Eastern Europe, Mongolia, North China, South Korea and Japan to northeast Siberia, further to the American Midwest and East Canada, from the freezing regions of the Arctic Ocean and north-western Europe to the bottom of today's Adriatic and to the Crimean Mountains.

Competition from the bison

Only the ice-age bison (bison priscus) brought it to a similar spread as the mammoths. The bison, however, were much more diverse than the fur mammoths. "Apparently the tolerance of the mammoths towards different environmental factors was higher and they were able to assert themselves very successfully in different open landscapes", says Kahlke.

But even among the hairy pachyderms, there were a few factors that limited the spread: glaciers, mountain ranges, semi - desert and desert, but also changes in the sea level or changes in vegetation limited the distribution of mammoths. "The analysis of these limiting factors is useful to understand the prevalence of fossil animal species and their extinction, as in the mammals at the end of the last Ice Age, " says the Ice Age Pal ontologist. (Quaternary International, 2015; doi: 10.1016 / j.quaint.2015.03.023

(Senckenberg Research Institute and Nature Museums, 17.08.2015 - NPO)