Comparative revision of the Iberian woolly mammoth ( Mammuthus primigenius) record into a European context
Woolly mammoth ( Mammuthus primigenius) populations reached the Iberian Peninsula during the Late Pleistocene. Up to date, presence of this species has been identified at 25 sites. A comprehensive study of Iberian woolly mammoths from an anatomical, chronological, palaeogeographical and palaeoecological perspectives is here presented. New descriptions of a number of fossils are also included. The Iberian woolly mammoth remains do not differ morphometrically from individuals of contemporaneous populations from other parts of Europe, compared with an extensive sample mainly from the North Sea and also from other continental European localities. Earliest presence of woolly mammoth in the Iberian Peninsula has been imprecisely dated between late Middle Pleistocene and early Late Pleistocene, although most correspond to MIS 3 and 2 stages, coinciding with periods of extreme dry and cold climatic conditions documented in terrestrial and marine sediment sequences. The geographical distribution reached the southern latitude of Padul (at 37°N), which constitutes the southernmost European occurrence of this species. Nevertheless, most of the occurrences are located in the north of the peninsula (Cantabrian area and Catalonia). Statistical analysis on the ecological composition of fossil assemblages with presence of M. primigenius show that temperate ungulate species are predominant at Iberian assemblages, resulting in a particular mixture of temperate and cold elements which does not reflect the typical faunal composition of the Eurasian mammoth steppe. This particular situation supports the idea that woolly mammoth only reached the peninsula occasionally, during the Pleistocene coldest episodes, resulting in a mixing of cold and temperate faunas, instead a faunal replacement.