Beringia: Wikis

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Shrinking of the Bering land bridge

The Bering land bridge was a land bridge roughly 1,000 miles (1,600 km) north to south at its greatest extent, which joined present-day Alaska and eastern Siberia at various times during the Pleistocene ice ages. It was not glaciated because snowfall was extremely light due to the southwesterly winds from the Pacific Ocean having lost their moisture over the fully glaciated Alaska Range. The grassland steppe, including the land bridge, that stretched for several hundred miles into the continents on either side has been called Beringia. It is believed that a small human population of at most a few thousand survived the Last Glacial Maximum in Beringia, isolated from its ancestor populations in Asia for at least 5,000 years, before expanding to populate the Americas sometime after 16,500 years ago, during the Late Glacial Maximum as the American glaciers blocking the way southward melted.[1][2][3][4]

Contents

Geography

Berengia -Wisconsin glaciation
Berengia - deglaciation period
Berengia - present day

The Bering Strait, the Chukchi Sea to the north and the Bering Sea to the south, are all shallow seas (maps, right). During cycles of global cooling, such as the most recent ice age, enough sea water became concentrated in the ice caps of the Arctic and Antarctic that the subsequent drop in eustatic sea levels exposed shallow sea floors that have subsequently re-flooded. Other land bridges around the world have been created and re-flooded in the same way: approximately 14,000 years ago, mainland Australia was linked to both New Guinea and Tasmania; the British Isles were an extension of continental Europe via the dry bed of the English Channel; and the dry basin of the South China Sea linked Sumatra, Java and Borneo to the Asian mainland.

The rise and fall of global sea levels has exposed and submerged the bridging land mass called "Beringia" in several periods of the Pleistocene. The Beringian land bridge is believed to have existed both in the glaciation that occurred before 35,000 BP and during the more recent period 22,000-7,000 years Before Present. The strait reopened about 15,500 BP[5] and by c. 6000 BP the coastlines had assumed approximately their present configurations.[6]

The ice-free heartland of Beringia served as a giant ecological refugium during maximal glaciation for those tundra plants that could survive its windswept Arctic desert conditions.[7] But Beringia constantly transformed its ecosystem as the changing climate affected the environment, determining which plants and animals were able to survive. The land mass could be a barrier as well as a bridge: during colder periods, glaciers advanced and precipitation levels dropped. During warmer intervals clouds, rain and snow altered soils and drainage patterns. Fossil remains show that spruce, birch and poplars once grew beyond their northernmost modern range today, indicating there were periods when the climate was warmer and wetter. Mastodons, which depended on shrubs for food, were uncommon in the open dry tundra landscape characteristic of Beringia during the colder periods; in this tundra, mammoths flourished instead.

Human habitation

The Bering land bridge is significant for several reasons, not least because it is believed to have enabled human migration to the Americas from Asia about 25,000 years ago.[8] A study by Hey[9] has indicated that of the people migrating across this land bridge during that time period, only 70 left their genetic print in modern descendants, a minute effective founder population—easily misread as though implying that only 70 people crossed to North America. Seagoing coastal settlers may also have crossed much earlier, but scientific opinion remains divided on this point, and the coastal sites that would offer further information now lie submerged in up to a hundred metres of water offshore. Land animals were able to migrate through Beringia as well, bringing mammals that evolved in Asia to North America, mammals such as proboscideans and lions, which evolved into now-extinct endemic North American species, and allowing equids and camelids that evolved in North America (and later became extinct there) to migrate to Asia.

A study published in 2007 in PLoS Genetics, led by University of Michigan and University College London researchers, suggests that the Bering land bridge migration occurred 12,000 years ago, that every human who migrated across the land bridge came from Eastern Siberia, and that every Native American is directly descended from that same group of Eastern Siberian migrants.[10] The authors note a "unique genetic variant widespread in natives across both continents — suggesting that the first humans in the Americas came in a single migration or multiple waves from a single source, not in waves of migrations from different sources".

Previous connections

Beringia area coverage

Biogeographical evidence demonstrates previous connections between North America and Asia. Similar dinosaur fossils have been found between Asia and North America. For instance the dinosaur Saurolophus was found in both Mongolia and western North America. Relatives of Troodon, Triceratops, and even Tyrannosaurus rex all came from Asia.

While there is considerable evidence for faunal interchange of dinosaurs in the Campanian and Maastrichtian phases of the Late Cretaceous, mammals, however, seem not to have dispersed so easily, perhaps because of their relatively small size[11]. Fossils in China demonstrate a migration of Asian mammals into North America around 55 million years ago. By 20 million years ago, evidence in North America shows a further interchange of mammalian species. Some, like the ancient saber-toothed cats, have a recurring geographical range: Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America. The only way they could reach the New World is through the Bering land bridge. Had this bridge not existed at that time, the fauna of the world would be very different.

Molecular phylogenetics is now being used to trace the history of faunal exchange and diversification, through the genetic history of parasites and pathogens of North American ungulates. An international Beringian Coevolution Project is collaborating to provide material to assess the pattern and timing of faunal exchange and the potential impact of past climatic events on differentiation.

See also

Further reading

  • Pielou, E. C., After the Ice Age : The Return of Life to Glaciated North America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press) 1992
  • Hey, Jody, 2005. "On the Number of New World Founders: A Population Genetic Portrait of the Peopling of the Americas" in Public Library of Science Biology 2005 May 24;3(6):e193 [1]

References

  1. ^ Goebel, Ted; Waters, Michael R.; O'Rourke, Dennis H. (2008). "The Late Pleistocene Dispersal of Modern Humans in the Americas". Science 319 (5869): 1497–1502. doi:10.1126/science.1153569.  
  2. ^ Fagundes, Nelson J. R.; et al. (2008). "Mitochondrial Population Genomics Supports a Single Pre-Clovis Origin with a Coastal Route for the Peopling of the Americas". American Journal of Human Genetics 82 (3): 583–592. doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2007.11.013.  
  3. ^ Tamm, Erika; et al. (2007). "Beringian Standstill and Spread of Native American Founders". PLoS ONE 2 (9): e829. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000829.  
  4. ^ Achilli, A.; et al. (2008). "The Phylogeny of the Four Pan-American MtDNA Haplogroups: Implications for Evolutionary and Disease Studies". PLoS ONE 3 (3): e1764. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001764.  
  5. ^ E.C. Pielou, After the Ice Age: The Return of Life to Glaciated North America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press) 1991:19 and note.
  6. ^ Isostatic rebound has continued to raise some sections of coast.
  7. ^ D.M. Hopkins, et al., Paleoecology of Beringia (New York: Academic Press) 1982.
  8. ^ National Geographic. "Atlas of the Human Journey." 2005. May 2, 2007
  9. ^ Hey, Jody (2005). "On the Number of New World Founders: A Population Genetic Portrait of the Peopling of the Americas". PLoS Biology 3 (6): e193. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0030193.  
  10. ^ Wang, Sijia; Lewis, C. M. Jr.; Jakobsson, M.; Ramachandran, S.; Ray, N.; et al. (2007). "Genetic Variation and Population Structure in Native Americans". PLoS Genetics 3 (11): e185. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0030185.  
  11. ^ Weil.

External links

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Simple English


The Bering land bridge joined present-day Alaska and eastern Siberia at times during the Pleistocene ice ages.

Its greatest extension was about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) north to south. It was not glaciated because snowfall was extremely light the southwesterly winds from the Pacific Ocean lost their moisture over the fully glaciated Alaska Range.

The grassland steppe, including the land bridge, that stretched for several hundred miles into the continents on either side has been called Beringia. It is believed that a small human population of at most a few thousand survived the ice age in Beringia. It was isolated from populations in Asia for at least 5,000 years. Sometime after 16,500 years ago, it started to populate the Americas when the American glaciers that blocked the way southward melted.[1][2][3][4]

Contents

Geography

File:Beringia - late wisconsin glaciation.gif
Berengia -Wisconsin glaciation
File:Berengia - deglaciation period.gif
Berengia - deglaciation period
File:Berengia - present day.gif
Berengia - present day

The Bering Strait, the Chukchi Sea to the north and the Bering Sea to the south, are all shallow seas (maps, right). During cycles of global cooling, such as the most recent ice age, enough sea water became concentrated in the ice caps of the Arctic and Antarctica that the subsequent drop in eustatic sea levels exposed shallow sea floors that have subsequently re-flooded. Other land bridges around the world have been created and re-flooded in the same way: approximately 14,000 years ago, mainland Australia was linked to both New Guinea and Tasmania; the British Isles were an extension of continental Europe via the dry bed of the English Channel; and the dry basin of the South China Sea linked Sumatra, Java and Borneo to the Asian mainland.

The rise and fall of global sea levels has exposed and submerged the bridging land mass called "Beringia" in several periods of the Pleistocene. The Beringian land bridge is believed to have existed both in the glaciation that occurred before 35,000 BP and during the more recent period 22,000-7,000 years Before Present. The strait reopened about 15,500 BP[5] and by c. 6000 BP the coastlines had assumed approximately their present configurations.[6]

Human habitation

The Bering land bridge is significant for several reasons, not least because it is believed to have enabled human migration to the Americas from Asia about 25,000 years ago.[7] A study by Hey[8] has indicated that of the people migrating across this land bridge during that time period, only 70 left their genetic print in modern descendants.

Further reading

  • Pielou, E. C., After the Ice Age : The Return of Life to Glaciated North America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press) 1992
  • Hey, Jody, 2005. "On the Number of New World Founders: A Population Genetic Portrait of the Peopling of the Americas" in Public Library of Science Biology 2005 May 24;3(6):e193 [1]

References

  1. Goebel, Ted; Waters, Michael R.; O'Rourke, Dennis H. (2008). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "The Late Pleistocene Dispersal of Modern Humans in the Americas"]. Science 319 (5869): 1497–1502. doi:10.1126/science.1153569. 
  2. Fagundes, Nelson J. R.; et al. (2008). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "Mitochondrial Population Genomics Supports a Single Pre-Clovis Origin with a Coastal Route for the Peopling of the Americas"]. American Journal of Human Genetics 82 (3): 583–592. doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2007.11.013. 
  3. Tamm, Erika; et al. (2007). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "Beringian Standstill and Spread of Native American Founders"]. PLoS ONE 2 (9): e829. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000829. 
  4. Achilli, A.; et al. (2008). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "The Phylogeny of the Four Pan-American MtDNA Haplogroups: Implications for Evolutionary and Disease Studies"]. PLoS ONE 3 (3): e1764. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001764. 
  5. E.C. Pielou, After the Ice Age: The Return of Life to Glaciated North America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press) 1991:19 and note.
  6. Isostatic rebound has continued to raise some sections of coast.
  7. National Geographic. "Atlas of the Human Journey." 2005. May 2, 2007
  8. Hey, Jody (2005). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "On the Number of New World Founders: A Population Genetic Portrait of the Peopling of the Americas"]. PLoS Biology 3 (6): e193. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0030193. 

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