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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2013

Holarctic genetic structure and range dynamics in the woolly mammoth

Palkopoulou, Eleftheria; Dalén, Love; Lister, Adrian; Vartanyan, Sergey; Sablin, Mikhail; Sher, Andrei; Nyström Edmark, Veronika; Brandström Durling, Mikael; Germonpré, Mietje; Barnes, Ian; Thomas, Jessica A


Ancient DNA analyses have provided enhanced resolution of population histories in many Pleistocene taxa. However, most studies are spatially restricted, making inference of species-level biogeographic histories difficult. Here, we analyse mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation in the woolly mammoth from across its Holarctic range to reconstruct its history over the last 200 thousand years (kyr). We identify a previously undocumented major mtDNA lineage in Europe, which was replaced by another major mtDNA lineage 32-34 kyr before present (BP). Coalescent simulations provide support for demographic expansions at approximately 121 kyr BP, suggesting that the previous interglacial was an important driver for demography and intraspecific genetic divergence. Furthermore, our results suggest an expansion into Eurasia from America around 66 kyr BP, coinciding with the first exposure of the Bering Land Bridge during the Late Pleistocene. Bayesian inference indicates Late Pleistocene demographic stability until 20-15 kyr BP, when a severe population size decline occurred.


ancient DNA; Mammuthus primigenius; extinction; refugia; climate

Published in

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
2013, volume: 280, number: 1770
Publisher: ROYAL SOC

Authors' information

Palkopoulou, Eleftheria
Swedish Museum of Natural History
Dalén, Love
Swedish Museum of Natural History
Lister, Adrian
Stockholm University
Vartanyan, Sergey
Russian Academy of Sciences
Sablin, Mikhail
Russian Academy of Sciences
Sher, Andrei
Russian Academy of Sciences
Nyström Edmark, Veronika
Swedish Museum of Natural History
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Mycology and Pathology
Germonpré, Mietje
Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
Barnes, Ian
Royal Holloway University of London
Thomas, Jessica A
Royal Holloway University of London

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

UKÄ Subject classification

Evolutionary Biology

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