A Different World
Globally, during the Pleistocene, the continents had a landmass which was increased over the present day's, but much of this, in the Northern hemisphere was covered by the huge continental icesheets. These icesheets were essentially uninhabitable, and as such, though total land area was increased, much less area was available for biotic use. Once the glaciers melted, large areas of land which were previously unavailable suddenly opened up to use. In North America, ice-free ground area increased by about 78 % between the close of the Pleistocene and the present day.
During the Pleistocene large landmasses which are now submerged, like Beringia which connected Alaska to Siberia, offered extensive coastal plains for animals to migrate across, allowing species such as Homo sapiens and Mammuthus primigenius to cross from Asia to North America and vice versa.
In Europe during the glacial periods of the Pleistocene, what is now the North Sea was at times a dry plain with a steppe-like environment, and the Isle of Britain was just a peninsula of the European continent. The balmy Mediterranian was a large salt lake, as is evidenced by submerged salt flats which are revealed in drill cores taken in the Mediterranian basin.
Though we call these submerged realms like Beringia "ice bridges", they were in fact much wider and extensive than their name implies.
Go Back to the Table of Contents, or go on to The Physical Mammoth to learn about the giant beasts themselves.