Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
. 2014 Feb 6;506(7486):47-51.
doi: 10.1038/nature12921.

Fifty Thousand Years of Arctic Vegetation and Megafaunal Diet


Fifty Thousand Years of Arctic Vegetation and Megafaunal Diet

Eske Willerslev et al. Nature. .


Although it is generally agreed that the Arctic flora is among the youngest and least diverse on Earth, the processes that shaped it are poorly understood. Here we present 50 thousand years (kyr) of Arctic vegetation history, derived from the first large-scale ancient DNA metabarcoding study of circumpolar plant diversity. For this interval we also explore nematode diversity as a proxy for modelling vegetation cover and soil quality, and diets of herbivorous megafaunal mammals, many of which became extinct around 10 kyr bp (before present). For much of the period investigated, Arctic vegetation consisted of dry steppe-tundra dominated by forbs (non-graminoid herbaceous vascular plants). During the Last Glacial Maximum (25-15 kyr bp), diversity declined markedly, although forbs remained dominant. Much changed after 10 kyr bp, with the appearance of moist tundra dominated by woody plants and graminoids. Our analyses indicate that both graminoids and forbs would have featured in megafaunal diets. As such, our findings question the predominance of a Late Quaternary graminoid-dominated Arctic mammoth steppe.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 66 articles

See all "Cited by" articles


    1. Ecol Lett. 2007 Jul;10(7):619-27 - PubMed
    1. Front Zool. 2009 Aug 20;6:16 - PubMed
    1. PLoS One. 2007 Feb 14;2(2):e197 - PubMed
    1. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2005 Feb;71(2):1012-7 - PubMed
    1. Mol Ecol. 2012 Apr;21(8):1989-2003 - PubMed

Publication types

MeSH terms

LinkOut - more resources