A recent archaeology site shows that human beings were living in Idaho 16,000 years ago. There is some speculation to how they got there; via small boats following the Pacific Coast or across the Bering Land Bridge. This is not the first time that archaeologist evidence shows that human beings settled North America prior 14,000 years ago.
“But in recent years, archaeologists have found numerous sites and artifacts older than that migration timeline, suggesting that early humans didn’t travel through the ice but followed the coast, likely using boats. A site called Monte Verde at the southern tip of Chile is at least 15,000 years old, a sinkhole in Florida recently yielded a knife and butchered mammoth bone more than 14,500 years old and the Gault site in Texas has yielded thousands of artifacts that could be 16,000 to 20,000 years old.(Smithsonian).”
This article was not intended to press in on the remark-ability of the human beings settling North America at an early date than previously thought. Its intention is to examine how much the natural landscape has changed in the last 20,000 years in North America. Aside from the impacts from human beings from hunting large mega-fauna, use of fire for ecological altering of the ecosystem, and massive change in temperature and glacial ice changes from orbital variation. It is remarkable that the current person thinks that to some degree that Elk and Moose represent what is wilderness in this modern age. But, it is speculated that Mammoths, Giant Sloth, Stag-Moose, Caribou, Woodland Musk Ox, Giant Ice Age Beaver, Mammoths, Long Horned Bison, and Mastodons were more likely the dominate species across the landscape and preceded the Elk and Moose by Hundreds of thousands of years.
Feel Free to Read MOTM article on early Paleohydrological Events
Paleohydrological events from the late Pleistocene to the Holocene 30kya to 1500AD
Moreover, it is believed that Moose and Elk did not arrive into the North America until about 15,000 years ago.
Faunal record identifies Bering isthmus conditions as constraint to end-Pleistocene migration to the New World
“In order to establish the pattern of faunal migration through the last glaciation, we first collated radiocarbon dates (figure 1a) for mammal taxa that have been proposed to undergo range expansion into Alaska during this period: brown bear (Ursus arctos), wapiti (Cervus elaphus), moose (Alces alces) and the Pleistocene lion (Panthera spelaea) [15,17,18]. Previous ancient DNA studies on brown bears identified a regional extinction in Alaska during Marine Isotope Stage 3 (MIS 3; 60–24 ka), with a subsequent recolonization from Siberia at 25 ka [15,19]. A similar high concentration of radiocarbon-dated lion bones from Alaska around 25 ka suggests either an expansion of a pre-existing population or further dispersal across Beringia. For wapiti and moose, by contrast, there are no unambiguous fossil records in Alaska until some 10 kyr later at 15 ka, contemporaneous with the earliest uncontested evidence of humans in eastern Beringia (Alaska) . Wapiti and moose therefore have the potential to illuminate the timing and mode of faunal and human expansion into the New World, especially the problem of migration during MIS 3.”
Mitochondrial Phylogeography of Moose (Alces alces): Late Pleistocene Divergence and Population Expansion
“Timing of expansion for the population in the Yakutia–Manchuria region of eastern Asia indicates that it is one of the oldest populations of moose and may represent the source of founders of extant populations in North America, which were colonized within the last 15,000 years.”
Did Elk (Cervus elephus) Live in North America Prior to 15,200 BP?
“The DNA evidence from the study make it clear–all North American elk alive today descend from the elk migration across the Bering Landbridge that began about 15,000 years ago. But this doesn’t rule out the possibility that a now extinct Pleistocene ecomorph of the elk occurred in North America prior to this date.”
Furthermore, the fossil evidence of Moose and Elk is generally absent in most fossil records prior to 15,000 years. It would be logical to think that aspen and spruce forests covering much of North America during the Ice age would offer abundant habitat for Moose. While remnants of Caribou and Stag-Moose are found in in places far south as Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. There is no record of Moose in those locations even though Glaciers were thought to come down as far south as Southern Iowa and Illinois.
The Presence of Caribou in Southeastern North America during the Pleistocene and it Paleoecological Implications
“I hypothesize Ice Age ecosystems in southeastern North America were more diverse than they are today due to rapid climate fluctuations. Climate phases of warm wet interstadials (but cooler on average than today) and cold arid stadials alternated but the response of the floral and faunal composition to these rapid climate changes lagged behind. Some climate phases lasted for a few thousand years or perhaps just centuries or even decades. They weren’t long enough to completely eliminate habitat for species with warm temperate affinities, nor did they last long enough to extirpate habitat favorable for species with boreal affinities. This explains why eastern chipmunks co-occurred with least chipmunks, and why caribou may have shared the range with jaguars and tapirs. During cold phases though prairie and boreal forest expanded, oak woodlands persisted on some tracts of land, especially south-facing slopes. During warm phases oak woodlands expanded, but spruce forests persisted on north facing slopes. Herds of caribou formerly wandered through Georgia followed by packs of dire wolves and prides of lions. The herds traveled through fingers of prairie between open woods consisting of pine and spruce and oak where turkeys foraged on the ground and fishers chased gray squirrels through the tree tops. Landscapes of present day Georgia are unrecognizable by comparison.”
Even more, while Human archaeology sites have been found through North and South America predating 14,000 years, the Moose was just starting to colonize the areas outside of Alaska. And the moose almost had a near brush with extinction where it’s population bottle-necked and almost did not have enough DNA diversity. Often one thinks of North America in a static state, as if there is one glacier event and then there is now. But, North America Glacier waxed and waned; and the climate change was radically changing all the time, and ecosystems were constantly changing.
Free Read MOTM Article
Micro Interglacial Cycles and an Alternative Understanding to Sea Level Fluctuations from a Paleoclimatic Perspective the Last 140,000 Years
Just like the Ecosystems and Climate were in constant change, so were the populations of Animals. There was not one wave of Mammoths or Bison for example. There were numerous waves of different sub species over several hundred thousand years. There were many small extinctions and evolution of many new Subspecies. Also, North America is not just a melting pot for many cultures as many people see the modern US as today. It was a melting pot for wildlife, after the great biological migration about 2.5 million years ago were the land bridge from South America joined with North America it was soon to because migration destination for wildlife coming from Eurasia the last million years via the Bering Land Bridge that was exposed due to Glacier Fluctuations.
In Future Articles MOTM staff would like to investigate the layered migration of Bison and Mammoths to North America. Furthermore MOTM would like to delve into how the Mastodon (Elephas americanum), Jefferson’s Ground Sloth (Megalonyx jeffersonii), and the Columbia Mammoth (Mammuthus columbi or Mammuthus jeffersoni) may have shared the landscape and how they all represent something intriguing about the wildlife exchange in the Americas the last 2.5 million years.