US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Quaternary Research 72 (2009) 359–363; doi:10.1016/j.yqres.2009.06.009


The end of the Pleistocene in North America was marked by a wave of extinctions of large mammals, with the last known appearances of many species falling between ca. 11,000–10,000 14C yr BP. Temporally, this period overlaps with the Clovis Paleoindian cultural complex (11,190–10,530 14C yr BP) and with sudden climatic changes that define the beginning of the Younger Dryas chronozone (ca. 11,000–10,000 14C yr BP), both of which have been considered as potential proximal causes of this extinction event. Radiocarbon dating of enamel and filtered bone collagen from an extinct American Mastodon (Mammut americanum) from northern Indiana, USA, by accelerator mass spectrometer yielded direct dates of 10,055±40 14C yr BP and 10,032±40 14C yr BP, indicating that the animal survived beyond the Clovis time period and into the late Younger Dryas. Although the late survival of this species in mid-continental North America does not remove either humans or climatic change as contributing causes for the late Pleistocene extinctions, neither Clovis hunters nor the climatic perturbations initiating the Younger Dryas chronozone were immediately responsible for driving mastodons to extinction.