Ice Age isolates Britain from Europe

The Manchester Museum has one of the best collections of Ice Age animals in Britain. The preserved bones show the problems animals were having adjusting to the dramatic changes in temperature in the last Ice Age. As the climate warmed at the end of the cold period the melting ice caused sea-level to rise cutting off Britain from mainland Europe.

Bison from Windy Knoll on display in the museum

Bison from Windy Knoll on display in the museum

Windy Knoll is a cave site near Castleton in Derbyshire. It was excavated in the1870s by William Boyd Dawkins who was a curator at Manchester Museum. Large numbers of bones were excavated, most of which were reindeer and other animals adapted to the cold. There was no evidence of rhino, mammoth, horse, hyaena, lion or other animals adapted to warmer temperatures.

Temperature records show these animals were living in a warm climate. The temperatures may have reached as high as 20°C in the summer. But evidence shows that they were animals primarily adapted to the cold. The melting ice had  flooded the North Sea and the English Channel isolating the cold animals on the newly formed British Isles.

The animals had become trapped, not able to migrate back to Europe and north. Their only option was to move north to Derbyshire where the slightly colder environment still supported some of their food.

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