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Tracking late-Quaternary extinctions in interior Alaska using megaherbivore bone remains and dung fungal spores

Conroy, KJ; Baker, AG; Jones, VJ; van Hardenbroek, M; Hopla, EJ; Collier, R; Lister, AM; (2020) Tracking late-Quaternary extinctions in interior Alaska using megaherbivore bone remains and dung fungal spores. Quaternary Research , 97 pp. 99-110. 10.1017/qua.2020.19. Green open access

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Abstract

One major challenge in the study of late-Quaternary extinctions (LQEs) is providing better estimates of past megafauna abundance. To show how megaherbivore population size varied before and after the last extinctions in interior Alaska, we use both a database of radiocarbon-dated bone remains (spanning 25–0 ka) and spores of the obligate dung fungus, Sporormiella, recovered from radiocarbon-dated lake-sediment cores (spanning 17–0 ka). Bone fossils show that the last stage of LQEs in the region occurred at about 13 ka ago, but the number of megaherbivore bones remains high into the Holocene. Sporormiella abundance also remains high into the Holocene and does not decrease with major vegetation changes recorded by arboreal pollen percentages. At two sites, the interpretation of Sporormiella was enhanced by additional dung fungal spore types (e.g., Sordaria). In contrast to many sites where the last stage of LQEs is marked by a sharp decline in Sporormiella abundance, in interior Alaska our results indicate the continuance of megaherbivore abundance, albeit with a major taxonomic turnover (including Mammuthus and Equus extinction) from predominantly grazing to browsing dietary guilds. This new and robust evidence implies that regional LQEs were not systematically associated with crashes of overall megaherbivore abundance.

Type: Article
Title: Tracking late-Quaternary extinctions in interior Alaska using megaherbivore bone remains and dung fungal spores
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/qua.2020.19
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1017/qua.2020.19
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Beringia, Paleoecology, Megafauna, Herbivore, Sporormiella, Sordaria, Coprophilous fungal spores, Fossil, Last glacial maximum, Transition
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Geography
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10101202
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