The Island of Shrinking Mammoths

  • Published: 06 February 2019
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    The mammoths fossils found on the Channel Islands off the coast of southern California are much smaller than their relatives found on the mainland. They were so small that they came to be seen as their own species. How did they get there? And why were they so small?

    Thanks to Ceri Thomas for the mammoth reconstructions throughout this episode. Check out more of Ceri's paleoart at and

    Thanks to Julio Lacerda and Studio 252mya for the Palaeoloxodon illustrations. You can find more of Julio's work here:

    Produced in collaboration with PBS Digital Studios:

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    “Extreme expansion of the olfactory receptor gene repertoire in African elephants and evolutionary dynamics of orthologous gene groups in 13 placental mammals.” Niimura Y, Matsui A, Touhara K. 2014.
    Evolution of Island Mammals: Adaptation and Extinction of Placental Mammals on Islands by Alexandra van der Geer, George Lyras, John de Vos and Michael Dermitzakis.
    Niimura Y, Matsui A, Touhara K. 2014. Extreme expansion of the olfactory receptor gene repertoire in African elephants and evolutionary dynamics of orthologous gene groups in 13 placental mammals. Genome Res doi: 10.1101/gr.169532.113
    "Sea level, paleogeography, and archeology on California's Northern
    Channel Islands," by Reeder-Myers et al. 2015.
  • Science and Technology Science and Technology

Comments • 1 000

  • Sergio Alcantara
    Sergio Alcantara  3 days back

    “Few thousand kilometers away”
    Thank you so much American companies for caring more about foreigners then us, the ones who made you in the first place. Never watching this channel again. You American companies that leave us for foreigners sicken me.

    • W.W.
      W.W.  2 weeks back

      Looking to clone a pygmy Pachyderm...tuskless obviously. Anyone have some DNA? Great Danes aren't that great

      • daprofessor 12
        daprofessor 12  3 weeks back

        "Imagine, a pint-sized elephant that you could keep in the house."

        • wcdeich4
          wcdeich4  1 months back

          I'd like to learn about seal evolution

          • Purple Fire 28
            Purple Fire 28  1 months back

            9:58 I want the tiny lizard.

            • Purple Fire 28
              Purple Fire 28  1 months back

              So uh... No one's going to mention the cursed giant ground sloth?

              • Antoine Fenech
                Antoine Fenech  2 months back

                Here in Malta like in Cyprus we fosilis of small Elephants. check Ghar Dalam.

                • kuma bear
                  kuma bear  2 months back

                  Show me iguanas please

                  • Thomas Nance
                    Thomas Nance  2 months back

                    Oh man! Pygmy mammoths! Adorable!

                    • Francis Lim
                      Francis Lim  2 months back

                      Ever wonder why early humans were smaller in sizes and under developed likes during the WWII,Japanese,Chinese and Koreans were short and small due to lack of food,understanding about nutrients intakes were non existent,but modern Asian are growing larger,even the Knights in Armour are on average about 5 foot tall.

                      • Dan Stevens
                        Dan Stevens  2 months back

                        Pygmy mammoth, slightly contracting

                        • Kirla
                          Kirla  2 months back

                          So, how many prehistoric species have we probably vanished? (previous modern anthropogenic mass extinction)

                          • Dipstikk
                            Dipstikk  2 months back

                            "Huge hedgehogs"
                            *Robotnik starts hyperventilating*

                            • Lil Ra Ra
                              Lil Ra Ra  2 months back

                              Small for a elephant,but still could probably flip over a car with ease lmfao

                              • Madison
                                Madison  2 months back

                                Lil' Mammoth is a cool rap name.

                                • Z Ramirez
                                  Z Ramirez  3 months back

                                  Where's TierZoo to do a min/maxing video???

                                  • Michael Misanik
                                    Michael Misanik  3 months back

                                    Just wondering could you guys do an episode about the once massive Amblyrhiza inundata that  lived on St Martin and Anguilla.

                                    • El_Guapo 13
                                      El_Guapo 13  3 months back

                                      Dang it. We could have had small domesticated breeds of mammoths in place of horses. They would have been way more useful too, as they could use their trunks to lift things.

                                      • chknwngonstrng
                                        chknwngonstrng  3 months back


                                        • David Rodriguez
                                          David Rodriguez  3 months back

                                          History of all Elephants please.

                                          • Hobnob Head
                                            Hobnob Head  3 months back

                                            I want to know about these Swans that hunt Elephants! 😂

                                            • Rajan Rao
                                              Rajan Rao  3 months back

                                              what about the island scrub-jay

                                              • kurokuyo
                                                kurokuyo  3 months back

                                                Why did the Mammoth swim to the island? The grass was greener.

                                                • matthew ulrich
                                                  matthew ulrich  3 months back

                                                  2:40 sounds like global warming happened over and over those mega mammals farted too much !!!!

                                                  • Carson Joshua Segales
                                                    Carson Joshua Segales  3 months back

                                                    Can foster's rule apply to humans also?? Is this why people like from the philippines are small in size?

                                                    • Emerson Lamond
                                                      Emerson Lamond  3 months back

                                                      at 8:27 you have Norfolk island pines, I don't think they were present in california at this time period

                                                      • Ryan Holloway
                                                        Ryan Holloway  4 months back

                                                        Can do the island of mini dinosaurs of Europe?

                                                        • kab kab
                                                          kab kab  4 months back

                                                          Tusk!! Tusk!!

                                                          • srijan saxena
                                                            srijan saxena  4 months back

                                                            Humans, making species extinct since forever

                                                            • Cường Quốc
                                                              Cường Quốc  4 months back

                                                              Japaneses before late 20th century

                                                              • Aether Slugstar
                                                                Aether Slugstar  4 months back

                                                                Evolution gets weird on islands.

                                                                • zoelhek
                                                                  zoelhek  4 months back

                                                                  Smol mammoth

                                                                  • POOH_LY
                                                                    POOH_LY  4 months back

                                                                    Mammoths: This place is so safe. There is no predatos here. Such a peaceful island.

                                                                    Humans: I am about to end this man's whole career.

                                                                    • Peter Edwards
                                                                      Peter Edwards  4 months back

                                                                      Pigmy elephants also lived on Malta.

                                                                      • Dirt Girl
                                                                        Dirt Girl  4 months back

                                                                        all of the mammoths look so sweet and friendly

                                                                        • Jaycob Bailey
                                                                          Jaycob Bailey  4 months back


                                                                          • Alexandria
                                                                            Alexandria  5 months back

                                                                            u think the mammoths were like "hey i dare you to swim out to that island" "no way, you do it with me" "ok fine"

                                                                            • Danny Kid
                                                                              Danny Kid  5 months back

                                                                              It would be cool to do an episode on the waco mammoths

                                                                              • Mark Rowland
                                                                                Mark Rowland  5 months back

                                                                                The island of Kodiac has a giant breed of Brown bear. My answer, as to which breed of bear is the largest was declared wrong. This lost me $80,000 in a TV quiz some thirty years back.

                                                                                • Grey Wolf
                                                                                  Grey Wolf  5 months back

                                                                                  I love the content of these but the presenter's voice makes my teeth ache! Got to go because she's giving me a migraine :(

                                                                                  • Rob Cabrera
                                                                                    Rob Cabrera  5 months back

                                                                                    Are mammoths just old elephants? I thought all of them where bigger and had thick fur!

                                                                                    Edit: I googled it, and it turns out that Mammoths, African Elephants, and Asian Elephants are three distinct groups of Eliphantidae. When you see them side by side it's easy to see the differences. Mastodons are a complete other thing too.

                                                                                    • Neon omar
                                                                                      Neon omar  5 months back

                                                                                      I've seen smaller. Source: Journey 2: the Mysterious Island.

                                                                                      • Vintage Vinny DIY
                                                                                        Vintage Vinny DIY  5 months back

                                                                                        E-pac....not epic..

                                                                                        • lemony
                                                                                          lemony  5 months back

                                                                                          is it just me that the mammoths look like they are smiling?

                                                                                          • Bonbonnie Wuvs
                                                                                            Bonbonnie Wuvs  5 months back

                                                                                            Why do humans kill everything?

                                                                                            • J C
                                                                                              J C  5 months back

                                                                                              dude thank you so much... whats funny is I CAME UP WITH SAME THEORY WITHOUT READING BOOKS IN MY UNDERWEAR ON MY OWN ISLAND... insular dwarfism is my favorite, most exciting phenomena... i was actually going to ask for you to make a video about this.

                                                                                              • J C
                                                                                                J C  5 months back

                                                                                                it literally is proof how fish, insects, AND plants shrink when there's less resources...which can be seen in every period of anthropology and regardless of environment.

                                                                                            • Bodil Fabian-Lamijon
                                                                                              Bodil Fabian-Lamijon  5 months back

                                                                                              Off-topic, but her makeup and outfit look really nice together and match her well

                                                                                              • PoshLifeforME
                                                                                                PoshLifeforME  5 months back

                                                                                                Look out! King Island emu at 10:03