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2 Posts tagged with the mammoth tag
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Palaeo-ecosystems in Pleistocene Europe: Insights from stable isotopes of large mammal fossils

 

Prof. Hervé Bocherens, University of Tübingen, Germany

 

Tuesday 3rd February - 4.00 pm

 

Earth Sciences Seminar Room (Basement, WEB 05, the previous Mineralogy Seminar Room)

 

The climatic fluctuations of the Pleistocene have caused dramatic changes in the ecosystems of Europe during the last million years. These ecosystems, cold or warm, included a high diversity of megafauna, in contrast to recent ecosystems under similar climatic conditions.

 

NaturalHistoryMuseum_PictureLibrary_024715_preview.jpgTooth of a woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius)

 

To gain a better understanding of the functioning of these ecosystems with no modern analogue, the isotopic composition in carbon, nitrogen and oxygen of the large mammal fossil bones and teeth were used to document key aspects of their ecology, such as habitat, diet preference, niche partitioning, and predator-prey interactions. In addition, isotopic analysis of fossil hominids and their prey allows the reconstruction of subsistence patterns and inferences on the possible anthropogenic impact on the environment.

 

More information on attending seminars at http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/news-events/seminars/

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The UK was for substantial periods in the past largely covered by glaciers that advanced and receded over the landscape as climate changed.  At various times when the ice had retreated - the inter-glacials - animals and plants moved back, colonising and flourishing in the new landscape.  What is now the coast of Norfolk was part of an ecosystem in the valley of a slow-flowing river, home to mammoths, rhino and bison, bears, wild dogs, hyenas, lions, deer, horses and waterfowl.  They lived across a low landscape with mixed woodland of oak, alder and birch.

 

Adrian Lister (Palaeontology) and former NHM researcher Tony Stuart have co-edited a special issue of the science journal Quaternary International that  brings together 18 papers on the geology, dating, floras and faunas of  the stratotype deposit of the Cromerian Interglacial of the Pleistocene (ca 700,000 years  BP).  These studies were presented at an earlier conference at the Castle Museum in Norwich.


This  major piece of work represents the culmination of 20 years of research,  beginning with the discovery and excavation in West Runton (Norfolk) of  a mammoth skeleton (Mammuthus trogontherii) in 1990.  This mammoth would have weighed around 9 tonnes, considerably larger than most modern African elephants, and died at over 40 years of age.

 

NaturalHistoryMuseum_055757_IA.jpg

Mammuthus trogontherii

 

The  volume includes contributions from past and present members of the  department, including Simon Parfitt, Mark Lewis, Marzia Breda, Nigel  Larkin, and John Stewart. The West Runton mammoth skeleton is the most  complete of the species, and it represents an important stage in the  evolution of the woolly mammoth. Its discovery stimulated a  comprehensive study of every aspect of the site, resulting in a new and  vivid picture of the environment of the time.


Lister,  A.M. & Stuart, A.J. (eds) 2010. The West Runton Freshwater Bed and  the West Runton Mammoth. Quaternary International 228, 1-248.