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Late-Glacial Vegetation Associated with Caribou and Mastodon in Central Indiana

  • Donald R. Whitehead (a1), Stephen T. Jackson (a1), Mark C. Sheehan (a1) and Barbara W. Leyden (a1)

Abstract

The Christensen Mastodon Site, located in central Indiana, contains a rich assemblage of vertebrates (including mastodon, caribou, and giant beaver), invertebrates, and plant macrofossils in situ in lake and bog sediments of late-glacial age. Studies of pollen and plant macrofossils suggest the existence of open, white spruce-dominated boreal forests from > 14,000 yr B.P. to ca. 13,000 yr B.P. The regional decline of spruce, local occurrence of black spruce, white spruce, and larch, immigration of many hardwood taxa (e.g., ash, oak, elm), and the initiation of bog development are recorded beginning about 13,000 yr B.P. Recent reconstructions of late-glacial and early postglacial vegetational changes provide a context for understanding the disappearance of mastodons. The dramatic and rapid restriction of boreal forests along the retreating ice margin from 11,000 to 9000 yr B.P. may have caused a substantial reduction of mastodon populations. A diminished population would be more susceptible to small-scale, stochastic events such as short-term extremes of weather, outbreaks of disease, or predation pressure from paleoindian hunters.

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