Thursday 18 June 2009

Mammoths around longer than thought?

Woolly mammoths lived in Britain as recently as 14,000 years ago, according to new radiocarbon dating evidence. Dr Adrian Lister obtained new dates for mammoth bones unearthed in the English county of Shropshire in 1986.His study in the Geological Journal shows the great beasts remained part of Britain's wildlife for much longer than had previously been supposed.Mammoths may finally have died out when forests encroached on the grassland habitats they favoured for grazing.

The radiocarbon results from the adult male and four juvenile mammoths from Condover, Shropshire, reveal that the great beasts were in Britain more than 6,000 years longer than had previously been thought.Researchers had supposed that mammoths disappeared from North-West Europe between 21,000 and 19,000 years ago, during a climatic freeze known as the last glacial maximum (LGM).Britain's mammoth populations may indeed have vanished with this big chill.But according to the new study, they were not gone forever. Instead, they returned when conditions eased and clung on in southern England until 14,000 years ago.

"What this usually means is that (mammoths) die out locally and then re-emigrate from refugia somewhere else," Dr Lister told BBC News.

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