Palaeo-environmental and dietary analysis of intestinal contents of a mammoth calf (Yamal Peninsula, northwest Siberia)

Bas Van Geel, Daniel C. Fisher, Adam N. Rountrey, Jan van Arkel, Joost F. Duivenvoorden, Aline M. Nieman, Guido B.A. van Reenen, Alexei N. Tikhonov, Bernard Buigues, Barbara Gravendeel

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Abstract

Intestinal samples from the one-month-old Siberian mammoth calf 'Lyuba' were studied using light microscopy and ancient DNA to reconstruct its palaeo-environment and diet. The palynological record indicates a 'mammoth steppe'. At least some pollen of arboreal taxa was reworked, and thus the presence of trees on the landscape is uncertain. In addition to visual comparison of 11 microfossil spectra, a PCA analysis contributed to diet reconstruction. This yielded two clusters: one of samples from the small intestine and the other of large-intestine samples, indicating compositional differences in food remains along the intestinal tract, possibly reflecting different episodes of ingestion. Based on observed morphological damage we conclude that the cyperaceous plant remains and some remains of dwarf willows were originally eaten by a mature mammoth, most likely Lyuba's mother. The mammoth calf probably unintentionally swallowed well-preserved mosses and mineral particles while eating fecal material deposited on a soil surface covered with mosses. Coprophagy may have been a common habit for mammoths, and we therefore propose that fecal material should not be used to infer season of death of mammoths. DNA sequences of trnL and rbcL genes amplified from ancient DNA extracted from intestinal samples confirmed and supplemented plant identifications based on microfossils and macro-remains. Results from different extraction methods and barcoding markers complemented each other and show the value of longer protocols in addition to fast and commercially available extraction kits.

LanguageEnglish (US)
Pages3935-3946
Number of pages12
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Volume30
Issue number27-28
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011

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Siberia
calves
microfossils
mosses and liverworts
ingestion
coprophagy
microfossil
DNA
sampling
moss
barcoding
large intestine
eating behavior
steppes
diet
habits
small intestine
light microscopy
damages
intestines

Keywords

  • Ancient DNA
  • Coprophagy
  • Fungal spores
  • Lyuba
  • Macrofossils
  • Mammoth calf
  • Permafrost
  • Pollen
  • Siberia
  • Silica-based DNA extraction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Geology

Cite this

Van Geel, B., Fisher, D. C., Rountrey, A. N., van Arkel, J., Duivenvoorden, J. F., Nieman, A. M., ... Gravendeel, B. (2011). Palaeo-environmental and dietary analysis of intestinal contents of a mammoth calf (Yamal Peninsula, northwest Siberia). Quaternary Science Reviews, 30(27-28), 3935-3946. DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2011.10.009

Palaeo-environmental and dietary analysis of intestinal contents of a mammoth calf (Yamal Peninsula, northwest Siberia). / Van Geel, Bas; Fisher, Daniel C.; Rountrey, Adam N.; van Arkel, Jan; Duivenvoorden, Joost F.; Nieman, Aline M.; van Reenen, Guido B.A.; Tikhonov, Alexei N.; Buigues, Bernard; Gravendeel, Barbara.

In: Quaternary Science Reviews, Vol. 30, No. 27-28, 01.12.2011, p. 3935-3946.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Van Geel, B, Fisher, DC, Rountrey, AN, van Arkel, J, Duivenvoorden, JF, Nieman, AM, van Reenen, GBA, Tikhonov, AN, Buigues, B & Gravendeel, B 2011, 'Palaeo-environmental and dietary analysis of intestinal contents of a mammoth calf (Yamal Peninsula, northwest Siberia)' Quaternary Science Reviews, vol 30, no. 27-28, pp. 3935-3946. DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2011.10.009
Van Geel B, Fisher DC, Rountrey AN, van Arkel J, Duivenvoorden JF, Nieman AM et al. Palaeo-environmental and dietary analysis of intestinal contents of a mammoth calf (Yamal Peninsula, northwest Siberia). Quaternary Science Reviews. 2011 Dec 1;30(27-28):3935-3946. Available from, DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2011.10.009
Van Geel, Bas ; Fisher, Daniel C. ; Rountrey, Adam N. ; van Arkel, Jan ; Duivenvoorden, Joost F. ; Nieman, Aline M. ; van Reenen, Guido B.A. ; Tikhonov, Alexei N. ; Buigues, Bernard ; Gravendeel, Barbara. / Palaeo-environmental and dietary analysis of intestinal contents of a mammoth calf (Yamal Peninsula, northwest Siberia). In: Quaternary Science Reviews. 2011 ; Vol. 30, No. 27-28. pp. 3935-3946
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