‘Semi-dwarf’ woolly mammoths from the East Siberian Sea coast, continental Russia

Irina V. Kirillova*, Olga K. Borisova, Olga F. Chernova, Thijs Van Kolfschoten, Jeroen H.J.L. Van Der Lubbe, Andrey V. Panin, Patricia Pečnerová, Johannes Van Der Plicht, Fedor K. Shidlovskiy, Vadim V. Titov, Oksana G. Zanina

*Corresponding author for this work

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A pioneer comprehensive study of several diminutive last-generation woolly mammoth teeth (M3) found on the coast of the East Siberian Sea between the mouths of the Alazeya and Malaya Kuropatoch'ya rivers was conducted. Two teeth belonged to one individual. These teeth have a similar lamellar frequency and enamel thickness as teeth of Mammuthus primigenius Blumenbach. The molar crowns from the lower Alazeya region are similar in size to those of the small Late Pleistocene–Holocene mammoths from Wrangel Island. However, the number of plates (17–19, excluding talons) is much lower than that in the teeth of typical Late Pleistocene M. primigenius (23–25). The age data of the examined teeth are beyond the limits of the 14C dating method (>45 000 years BP). Nevertheless, palaeobotanical data allow correlation of the enclosing sediments with the warm Kazantsevo Interglacial (Eemian, MIS 5e) and reconstruction of the average annual temperature, which was warmer than present-day temperatures. These conditions are confirmed by the δ18O isotopes from the structurally bound carbonate in tooth enamel. The ancient landscape was wetter and more forested than modern landscapes. The diminution of M3 size and loss of posterior plates were a result of the overall decrease in body size, likely in response to landscape change and narrowing of resource space. Mammoths from the lower Alazeya region demonstrate a stage of significant size reduction, although the dwarfing was not finalized. Their teeth are the oldest amongst the small teeth found in west Beringia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-285
Number of pages17
Issue number2
Early online date4 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


U.S. National Science Foundation Funding (grant numbers1044610 and 0732944), 2012

FundersFunder number
Fundamental Research Program RASAAAA-A18- 118013190182-3


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