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Curr Biol. 2007 Jun 19;17(12):1072-5. Epub 2007 Jun 7.

Genetic structure and extinction of the woolly mammoth, Mammuthus primigenius.

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  • 1School of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX, United Kingdom.


The interval since circa 50 Ka has been a period of significant species extinctions among the large mammal fauna. However, the relative roles of an increasing human presence and a synchronous series of complex environmental changes in these extinctions have yet to be fully resolved. Recent analyses of fossil material from Beringia have clarified our understanding of the spatiotemporal pattern of Late Pleistocene extinctions, identifying periods of population turnover well before the last glacial maximum (LGM: circa 21 Ka) or subsequent human expansion. To examine the role of pre-LGM population changes in shaping the genetic structure of an extinct species, we analyzed the mitochondrial DNA of woolly mammoths in western Beringia and across its range. We identify genetic signatures of a range expansion of mammoths, from eastern to western Beringia, after the last interglacial (circa 125 Ka), and then an extended period during which demographic inference indicates no population-size increase. The most marked change in diversity at this time is the loss of one of two major mitochondrial lineages.

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