New Radiocarbon-Dated Vertebrate Fossils from Herschel Island: Implications for the Palaeoenvironments and Glacial Chronology of the Beaufort Sea Coastlands

  • Grant D. Zazula
  • P. Gregory Hare
  • John E. Storer
Keywords: Pleistocene, Yukon, Herschel Island, palaeontology, Beringia, mammals, fossils, Buckland Glaciation, Beaufort Shelf, chronology

Abstract

Palaeontological research on Herschel Island, Yukon, has yielded a diverse collection of Quaternary marine and terrestrial vertebrate fossils. The terrestrial faunal remains, which have largely been collected as allochthonous beach debris at Pauline Cove, are dominated by Yukon horse (Equus sp.), with fewer specimens of steppe bison (Bison priscus), proboscideans (Mammuthus primigenius and a single Mammut americanum specimen), and other large and medium-sized mammals. This pattern of a horse-dominated Late Pleistocene fauna is consistent with those from the North Slope of Alaska and further demonstrates that conditions in northernmost Beringia were more arid than those in interior areas such as Fairbanks or the Klondike. This paper presents new AMS radiocarbon dates on terrestrial vertebrate fossils and peat from the island that span the range from greater than 53 000 to modern 14C yr BP. When considered with other data from the region, our new radiocarbon-dated fauna cannot adequately resolve whether the Herschel Island ice-thrust ridge was formed during the Early Wisconsinan or the Late Wisconsinan advance of the Laurentide Ice Sheet over the Yukon Coastal Plain.
Published
2009-09-11