Paleoecological Significance of Mummified Remains of Pleistocene Horses from the North Slope of the Brooks Range, Alaska


  • R. Dale Guthrie
  • Samuel Stoker



horse, Pleistocene, paleoecology, Alaska, paleontology


Radiocarbon dates from horse fossils found on the North Slope of Alaska show that horses did live there during the last peak glacial (Duvanny Yar Interval, Marine Isotope Stage 2). Some previous paleoecological studies have assumed the region's climate was too extreme for large mammals during the Duvanny Yar. Hoof structure suggests the Pleistocene horses survived on winter range characterized by low snowfall and/or snow removal by wind. Hoof growth rate suggests a substantial dietary volume of exposed dead grass during winter; hoof wear pattern indicates the horses were able to remain relatively sedentary, requiring neither long-distance winter migration nor constant digging through snow for food. Bones with mummified soft tissue may have been buried and preserved by wind-drifted eolian silt.