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Ice Age Relics

Posted Dec 22 2011 12:00am
Mention Ice Age relics and most of us think of frozen mammoth carcasses, unearthed Neandertal bones or that living relic, the musk ox. More sophisticated students of natural history might also picture various forms of glacial terrain, erratic boulders or relic groves of hemlock, surviving the warm Holocene in shaded valleys of the Temperate Zone.

In fact, most modern plants and animals lived during the Pleistocene, having "moved" to warmer latitudes or to deeper waters when glaciers advanced and sea levels fell. Of course, the colder and wetter climate of the Pleistocene also spawned the evolution of new species, such as polar bears and Arctic fox, as their ancestors adapted to changing conditions.

We humans are also children of the Pleistocene, having appeared about 130,000 years ago, late in the course of that 2 million year Epoch. Like other creatures, we adapted to its shifting climate but, due to our large brains, we did not require new physical traits to survive; rather, we used fire, clothing and shelter for protection from the cold and took advantage of Pleistocene land bridges or ice shelfs to colonize the globe. Like the musk ox and the polar bear, we are living relics of the Ice Age.
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