The Island of Shrinking Mammoths

  • Published on: 05 February 2019
  • You can check out Google's Science Journal app at

    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:

    Super special thanks to the following Patreon patrons for helping make Eons possible:

    Katie Fichtner, Anthony Callaghan, Larry Wilson, Merri Snaidman, Renzo Caimi Ordenes, John Vanek, Neil H. Gray, Marilyn Wolmart, Esmeralda Rupp-Spangle, Gregory Donovan, Ehit Dinesh Agarwal, سلطان الخليفي, Gabriel Cortez, Marcus Lejon, Robert Arévalo, Robert Hill, Kelby Reid, Todd Dittman, Betsy Radley, PS, Colin Sylvester, Philip Slingerland, Jose Garcia, Eric Vonk, Tony Wamsley, Henrik Peteri, Jonathan Wright, Jon Monteiro, James Bording, Brad Nicholls, Miles Chaston, Michael McClellan, Jeff Graham, Maria Humphrey, Nathan Paskett, Connor Jensen, Daisuke Goto, Hubert Rady, Yuntao Zhou, Gregory Kintz, Tyson Cleary, Chandler Bass, Maly Lor, Joao Ascensao, Tsee Lee, Sarah Fritts, Ron Harvey Jr, Jacob Gerke, Alex Yan

    If you'd like to support the channel, head over to and pledge for some cool rewards!

    Want to follow Eons elsewhere on the internet?
    Facebook -
    Twitter -
    Instagram -

    “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.
  • Runtime : 12:15
  • dinosaurs dinos paleo paleontology scishow eons pbs pbs digital studios hank green john green complexly fossils natural history California Channel Islands mammoth Columbian mammoths pygmy mammoths Santa Rosa Island Robert Stearns tusk Pleistocene Epoch Santarosae Foster’s Rule Insular Dwarfism Younger Dryas glaciers Palaeoloxodon


  • Dr. Duck
    Dr. Duck   1 months ago

    Anyone else here because of school?

  • StargazerNorth1
    StargazerNorth1   1 months ago

    Ha, when she said "the Channel Islands" I was fully expecting a video about mammoths on Jersey, Guernsey, Sark and Aldernay.

  • Dondon Gan
    Dondon Gan   1 months ago

    we, Asians are relatively shorter than all other races. Could it be that Asia was once a cluster of smaller islands with limited food supply? Were we isolated many hundreds of thousands of years ago that we were like the pygmy mammoths?

  • Liam Hackney
    Liam Hackney   1 months ago

    11:10 ooh is that the Haast's Eagle hunting a Moa in New Zealand

  • Rattus
    Rattus   2 months ago

    A columbian mammoth should be quite a bit over 4 metres The african elephant can grow to 4 metres and higher plus why do people always underestimate elephants or they say oh elephants are 2-3.5 metres tall but bruh like those are females and they always say this because so many people fight over ELEPHANT VS TREX but like come on people always talk about the biggest type of trex and smallest type of elephant just because elephants are bigger + stronger

  • Logan James
    Logan James   2 months ago

    could you make an episode on deinotherium and call it "when elephants tusks pointed backwards"?

  • Jesse Bright
    Jesse Bright   2 months ago

    A lot of the Eons episodes give examples of small animals getting big and diversifying after mass extinctions via adaptive radiation. I wonder if there were ever examples, besides being due to insular dwarfism, when large animals got small and diversified to fill the void of empty ecological niches. If not, is being a mega-fauna always an evolutionary dead end?

  • Abdulaziz Bature
    Abdulaziz Bature   2 months ago

    Till date there are pygmy hippos in west Africa and pygmy elephants in Borneo

  • russ music
    russ music   2 months ago

    I don't see how it took the dinosaurs millions of years to physically change and these Mammoth did it in just hundreds

  • Adam Thomas
    Adam Thomas   2 months ago

    So it's basically a small version of a big version of a smaller mammoth

  • Adam Thomas
    Adam Thomas   2 months ago

    Well, isn't this just like the lite version of the Australian wildlife

  • saltypork101
    saltypork101   2 months ago

    Like every species of this era and later, their story ends with [SPOILER] "And then we killed them all".

  • purple nugget
    purple nugget   3 months ago

    it's all cute and fun until you remember they're all dead

  • Ds s1311
    Ds s1311   3 months ago

    Why all the extreme climate change without humans? Would you do an episode on this please, I'm genuinely puzzled and not sure what to think...

  • mystery8guy
    mystery8guy   4 months ago

    Cyprus also had dwarf elephants at some point.

  • TONY
    TONY   4 months ago

    Could you imagine a small human.

  • GeoMisfit
    GeoMisfit   4 months ago

    Omg, I need a pet pygmy mammoth!!!

  • Mike
    Mike   4 months ago

    i mean elephants are pretty good swimmers and don't tire very easily as well as being able to use their trunk like a snorkel. so if their anything alike then mammoths of whatever kinds should be just as good swimmers.

  • Blake Armin
    Blake Armin   4 months ago

    Where you guys get that freak beat at 1:42? That's some jazzy sihz, right there!

  • Mr Mister
    Mr Mister   5 months ago

    Small Mammoths are still pretty dangerous just a reminder

  • Tracy Shipshee
    Tracy Shipshee   5 months ago

    I'd like to see a video of the history of California. How long was is underwater? What kind of prehistoric animals lived there? When did people start to live there?

  • FlyingFocs
    FlyingFocs   5 months ago

    9:30 with the information of that elephant still being 400+ pounds, I am deeply afraid of how big that swan is.

  • The Bonesaw ..
    The Bonesaw ..   5 months ago

    How about a show on the evolution of the squirrel? I know it sounds silly (because who doesn't like squirrels?... they're goddamned adorable), but this animal's evolutionary story has taught us a lot about mammalian diversification and evolution as a whole, as well as the impact of ancient climate change. Having started in a tiny corner of North America, they spread out over the entire planet, their migration being driven largely by tectonic forces along with changes in the Earth's climate over millions and millions of years.

  • Alex Mckillmore
    Alex Mckillmore   6 months ago

    5:20 wait, how were there climate changes back then if there were no republicans?

  • Dakota Taylor
    Dakota Taylor   6 months ago

    did you ever think they were just baby mammoths

  • Nathaniel Anderson
    Nathaniel Anderson   6 months ago

    Maybe the mammograms were really large when they first walked, across, and then after they shrank, they were stranded.

  • 77Catguy
    77Catguy   6 months ago

    The Channel Islands are still home to a species of pygmy foxes.