When the pond turtle followed the reindeer: effect of the last extreme global warming event on the timing of faunal change in Northern Europe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Faunal communities have been shaped in different ways by past climatic change. The impact of the termination of the last Glacial and the onset of the present (Holocene) Interglacial on large-scale faunal shifts, extinction dynamics and gene pools of species are of special interest in natural sciences. A general pattern of climate-triggered range expansion and local extinction of vertebrate species is known for Europe, and shows that in the modern temperate zone the main faunal change took place mainly during the Late Glacial (14 700-11 700 years ago) and Early Holocene (11 700-9 100 years ago). Based on large datasets of new radiocarbon data, we present precise temporal dynamics of climate-driven disappearance and appearance of reindeer and pond turtle in southern Sweden. These two species are significant climate indicators in Late Quaternary biostratigraphy. Our data reveal that the reindeer disappeared from southern Sweden ca. 10 300 years ago, whereas the pond turtle colonized the area ca. 9 860 years ago, with a 450-year gap between each species. This provides evidence for a sudden environmental turnover, causing the replacement of an arctic faunal element by a thermophilic species. The postglacial range dynamics of pond turtle and reindeer are a unique model case, allowing insights into the faunal turnover of other vertebrates during the last dramatic natural global warming event at the Pleistocene-Holocene transition.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Geology
  • Zoology


  • Emys orbicularis, extinction, Holocene, Late Glacial, Quaternary, range, shift, Rangifer tarandus, Sweden
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2049-2053
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Publication categoryResearch