Mammoth Find Fuels Extinction Debate

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Mammoth find fuels extinction debate

Mammoth bones recovered at a gravel pit in England last year are about 12,800 years old and extend the known occurrence of the huge mammals in Britain to near the end of the last Ice Age. The new find, say paleontologists G. Russell Coope of the University of Birmingham, England, and Adrian M. Lister of the University of Cambridge, England, contradicts the widespread scientific view that mammoths disappeared from Britain during the maximum expansions of ice sheets between 18,000 and 15,000 years ago.

The discovery, consisting of an almost complete adult skeleton and partial skeletons of at least three juveniles, is unique in Europe, and the adult skeleton is the best-preserved mammoth of any age yet found in England, report the investigators in the Dec. 3 NATURE.

Tusk fragments from the adult specimen underwent independent radiocarbon dating at two university laboratories. Their age is close to that of two other recent mammoth finds in Europe dated at around 12,000 years old.

A juvenile skull and two juvenile lower jaws contained fossil remains of the blowfly and dung beetle. Since both of these species are now found only in temperate regions. Coope and Lister say the late-Ice Age climate in England may also have been relatively mild.

The age of the British mammoths is only 2,300 years older than the latest known mammoth remains in North America, writes Jeffrey J. Saunders of the Illinois State Museum in Springfield in an accompanying editorial. …