Beringia - A Bridge to the Americas
Climate history and human history have always been closely connected. It is widely believed that changes in climate enabled people to migrate into North America about 15,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age. At that time, ice sheets thousands of feet thick covered all of present-day Canada and the northern United States. Because so much of the earth’s water was captured in the ice sheets, sea levels were lower, and a land bridge extended from Alaska to the western tip of Siberia. Known as Beringia, the land bridge (see map to right) was nearly 1,000 miles wide. It provided a corridor for the first people to migrate from Siberia to Alaska.
The Bering land bridge was used by animals, too. Elephant, deer, elk and moose migrated across Beringia to North America. As these species moved east, the camel and horse, which evolved in the Americas, moved across the land bridge to Eurasia.
Did You Know?
- Mammals living in the Bering Land Bridge include the grizzly bear, musk ox, reindeer, wolf, wolverine, fox, and smaller species.
- Musk Oxen were once extinct on the Seward Peninsula in Alaska. They are thriving today after reintroduction in 1970.
- More than 170 known species of birds migrate 20,000 miles yearly to the Bering Land Bridge. At the crossroad of the Asiatic-North America flyway, this area offers rare opportunities to observe several old world species.
| |Beringia (from Siberia to Alaska) was nearly 1,000 miles wide. NPS map.
Do you know the difference between a mastodon, a mammoth
and an elephant?