February 7, 2013 at 6:56 am (Lessons from Travels, mammals, paleontology)
Tags: caribou, continental glacier, Newfoundland, tundra
by Carl Strang
Travel offers many comparisons to the home landscape. Sometimes you can go back in time. I felt that way during my trip to Newfoundland in 2002, when my first day’s drive brought me to a herd of caribou.
The irregular southeastern peninsula of this island province in Canada offers the rare opportunity to encounter caribou along a paved road.
A curious calf detached itself from the group and approached my stopped car.
My clicking shutter sent him back to the herd.
Thousands of years before paved roads, as the glacier retreated from northeast Illinois, caribou followed with the tundra and stunted early trees as they trailed the ice edge.
April 2, 2012 at 6:20 am (archeology, mammals, paleontology, Prehistoric Life series)
Tags: brown bear, caribou, Clovis culture, continental glacier, elk-moose, literature review, mastodon, megafauna, Pleistocene, polar bear, stag moose
by Carl Strang
The following notes complete my review of last year’s scientific literature. These studies looked at the most recent epoch, the Pleistocene, and focus on the megafauna, the large mammals.
Mastodon fossil, an iconic megafaunal species
Edwards, Ceiridwen J., et al. Ancient Hybridization and an Irish Origin for the Modern Polar Bear Matriline. Current Biology, 07 July 2011 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.05.058 As described in a ScienceDaily article. This new mitochondrial DNA study places the female ancestor of all current polar bears in Ireland 50,000 years ago, at the peak of the last ice age. Brown and polar bears once were both circumpolar, or nearly so, and the ebb and flow of the glaciers brought them in and out of contact, providing hybridization opportunities. The authors mention that this continues today, with the retreat of polar ice bringing the two species more into contact, and several recent hybrid individuals are known. The researchers indicate that this process needs to be taken into consideration both in understanding the nature of these species and in conservation planning.
Long, Charles A., and Christopher J. Yahnke. 2011. End of the Pleistocene: elk-moose (Cervalces) and caribou (Rangifer) in Wisconsin. J. Mammal. 92:1127-1135. They describe the northernmost caribou fossils found to date in Wisconsin, from Marathon County. The Cervalces (also known as stag moose) from the same site is the first for the state, and northernmost for the species. The study location was at the boundary between the glacier’s Green Bay Lobe and the driftless area. The age of the caribou antler is placed at 11,260-11,170 years ago. The elk-moose was from 12,920-12,790 years ago. The caribou probably was of the more southern woodland caribou species. The older elk-moose fossil was found in a sediment layer suggesting it lived close to the edge of the glacier, in more of a tundra environment.
Eline D. Lorenzen, et al. Species-specific responses of Late Quaternary megafauna to climate and humans. Nature, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nature10574 As described in a ScienceDaily article. They looked at a range of genetic, archeological and other evidence, and found that the megafauna that went extinct and those that survived in the northern hemisphere represent a complex picture. All had survived previous glacial cycles by finding refugia in warm periods, with populations just large enough to continue. Some were able to do so again after the most recent glacial retreat, for instance caribou and musk oxen in the far north and bison in the North American plains, and survive to this day. Others did not, and in at least most of these cases humans are implicated, either by preventing retreat to refugia or by decimating the reduced populations.
Waters, Michael R., et al. 2011. Pre-Clovis mastodon hunting 13,800 years ago at the Manis site, Washington. Science 334:351-353. (also interpreted in a news article on p. 302 of the same issue). They found a spear point made of mastodon bone, imbedded in the rib of an adult male mastodon. It is dated to several hundred years before the Clovis culture. The location near the coast in Washington State is consistent with a coastal spread of people from Beringia, where bone spear points also were used. This also supports an extended period of megafauna hunting, further pointing toward human hunting as a factor in extinctions (a long period of hunting, even if it only removes animals slightly faster than they can reproduce, increases the importance of that mortality factor).
June 6, 2009 at 11:19 am (Uncategorized)
Tags: broad-winged tree cricket, caribou, continental glacier, Georgian Bay, kayak, Killarney, Newfoundland, Saturn, Wyalusing State Park
by Carl Strang
My friends know that I’m a hopeless nature nerd. If you know me only through this blog, that has been evident enough. But I have my emotional side, and I can get sentimental about what to others might seem to be ridiculous things. The time has come to say goodbye to my old Saturn station wagon, and I’m sad about it. The car made a cameo appearance in the early days of this blog, when I described my pilgrimage to trace the route of the Lake Michigan lobe of the latest continental glacier.
That was the last significant adventure the Saturn and I shared. It was not, however, the greatest. That trip would have to be my journey to Newfoundland in 2002. Newfoundland is, of course, an island province. The car made the crossing in the hold of a ferry much like this one.
I drove all around Newfoundland. This photo of a caribou calf I took through the car’s window.
In that car I went as far south as Mobile, Alabama, and as far west as the southwest corner of Kansas. I drove all around lakes Superior and Huron in 2004, scouting for good kayaking possibilities that set up my crossing of northern Georgian Bay in 2006. Here the car and kayak sit in the Ontario town of Killarney as I feast on the evening before starting that adventure.
Of course there were innumerable shorter trips. Here is my campsite at Wisconsin’s Wyalusing State Park, where I discovered a new northern range limit for the broad-winged tree cricket.
But, as my arthritis increasingly reminds me, all things wear out and ultimately must end. That car made it past 190,000 miles and 11 years, but was completely worn out and no longer reliable. I no longer could trust it for longer trips or for carrying my boats. At the end of May it broke down so significantly that I could not justify the cost of repairing it. So now I feel the sadness of saying goodbye to an old friend. Thank you, Saturn, for carrying me all those miles. And thank you, readers, for indulging me in this cathartic posting.
December 23, 2008 at 1:23 pm (mammals)
Tags: caribou, Newfoundland
by Carl Strang
A safe and happy Solstice season to you and yours.
Caribou calf (New World reindeer equivalent and probable DuPage County resident 15,000 years ago), Newfoundland