Mammoths found in Granada Basin

by mammoth on July 23, 2009

 Remains of woolly mammoths have been found in southern
Spain, proving that the chilly grip of the last Ice Age extended
farther south than thought, palaeontologists said on Thursday.

The
fossilised remains of at least four mature male mammoths (Mammuthus
primigenius) were found in a peat bog near the town of Padul in the
Granada Basin, they said.

Carbon-dating estimates the animals lived between 35 000 and 25 700 years ago.

Until
now, the southernmost mammoths in western Europe were found in Spain at
around 40 degrees north, or roughly the same latitude as Spain.

This
new find, though, is more than 300 kilometres farther south, which
shows that the grasslands that flourished in the dry, cold climate in
the Eurasian ice ages extended much farther south than previously
thought.

“These woolly mammoths finds do not belong to stray
animals who only chanced to head south, but belonged to Granada’s
permanent inhabitants at this time,” said Diego Alvarez-Lao of the
University of Oviedo, Spain.

The finds are backed by evidence from drill cores, indicating that steppe plants once flourished in Spain.

Climate change

The
team believe the woolly giants pushed south at the same time as similar
advances into eastern China, northern Japan and Kamchatka, a migration
associated with climate change in the northeast Atlantic and northwest
Pacific.

Mammoth remains have also been found in Georgia.

“This
is proof that global mechanisms which regulated climate already during
the Ice Age also influenced vegetation and with it also animal
migration,” said Ralf-Dietrich Kahlke of Germany’s Senckenberg Research
Institutes.

The team, which included scientists from the
University of Madrid and the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam,
publish their work in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology,
Palaeoecology.

Woolly mammoths eventually died out after the Ice Age, also called the Late Pleistocene, came to an end around 10 000 years ago.

Some
scenarios blame natural global warming that destroyed the animals’
sources of food; others say the beasts were wiped out by humans who
expanded rapidly after the big freeze.

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