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No. 87: May-Jun 1993

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Late Survival Of Mammoths

Many a sensational article has been written about how the Siberian mammoth population was deep-frozen by a sudden climate change due to a shift in the earth's poles or some other catastrophic event circa 10,000 years ago. But now, Russian scientist A. Sher and two colleagues claim that a dwarf version of the wooly mammoth survived on Wrangel Island, 120 miles off the Siberian coast until about 3,700 years ago.

The Wrangel Island dwarf mammoths stood only about 2 meters high and weighed 2 tons. The British mammoth expert, A. Lister, said he was not really surprised at this discovery, because many islands supported dwarf versions of mainland animals during the Ice Ages.

(Crenson, Matt; "A Mammoth Discovery," Dallas Morning News, p. 22A, March 25, 1993. Cr. L. Anderson. Also: Bower, B.; "'Dwarf' Mammoths Outlived Last Ice Age," Science News, 143:197, 1993.)

Comment 1. If the full-size Siberian mammoths really met their demise because of a catastrophic climate change, how did the dwarf mammoths occupying the same region escape?

Comment 2. Lister's remark about other dwarf island inhabitants brings to mind the dwarf elephants of Santa Rosa, off the Californian coast, which apparently were the main course in early human feasts. But, curiously, island isolation also leads to gigantism, as seen in the moas of New Zealand. This contradiction needs explaining.

Reference. A large body of literature exists on the possible late survival of the mammoth and mastadon. See BMD10 in our catalog: Biological Anomalies: Mam mals II, which is described here.

From Science Frontiers #87, MAY-JUN 1993. 1993-2000 William R. Corliss