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 • 1 003

  • Addison Bade
    Addison Bade  19 hours back

    I'm sorry but a lot of this is pure conjecture masquerading as fact.

    • Madison Schon
      Madison Schon  2 days back

      "Honey, I shrunk the mammoths"

      • Iamnotpau
        Iamnotpau  2 days back

        Am I the only one that always gets so proud when a species advances to new lands or survives for a long period of time ?

        • Sergio Alcantara
          Sergio Alcantara  6 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.  3 weeks back

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

            • daprofessor 12
              daprofessor 12  4 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  3 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  5 months back

                                                                              all of the mammoths look so sweet and friendly

                                                                              • Jaycob Bailey
                                                                                Jaycob Bailey  5 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?