Seventy-five mosses and liverworts found frozen with the late Neolithic Tyrolean Iceman: Origins, taphonomy and the Iceman’s last journey

Dickson, J. H., Oeggl, K. D., Kofler, W., Hofbauer, W. K., Porley, R., Rothero, G. P., Schmidl, A. and Heiss, A. G. (2019) Seventy-five mosses and liverworts found frozen with the late Neolithic Tyrolean Iceman: Origins, taphonomy and the Iceman’s last journey. PLoS ONE, 14(10), e0223752. (doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0223752) (PMID:31665165) (PMCID:PMC6821077)

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Abstract

The Iceman site is unique in the bryology of the Quaternary. Only 21 bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) grow now in the immediate vicinity of the 5,300 year old Iceman discovery site at 3,210m above sea level in the Ötztal Alps, Italy. By contrast 75 or more species including at least ten liverworts were recovered as subfossils frozen in, on and around the Iceman from before, at and after his time. About two thirds of the species grow in the nival zone (above 3,000m above sea level) now while about one third do not. A large part of this third can be explained by the Iceman having both deliberately and inadvertently carried bryophytes during his last, fatal journey. Multivariate analyses (PCA, RDA) provide a variety of explanations for the arrivals of the bryophytes in the rocky hollow where the mummy was discovered. This is well into the nival zone of perennial snow and ice with a very sparse, non-woody flora and very low vegetation cover. Apart from the crucial anthropochory (extra-local plants), both hydrochory (local species) and zoochory (by wild game such as ibex of both local and extra-local species) have been important. Anemochory of mainly local species was of lesser importance and of extra-local species probably of little or no importance. The mosses Neckera complanata and several other ecologically similar species as well as a species of Sphagnum (bogmoss) strongly support the claim that the Iceman, took northwards up Schnalstal, South Tyrol, as the route of the last journey. A different species of bogmoss, taken from his colon is another indication the Iceman’s presence at low altitude south of Schnalstal during his last hours when he was first high up, low down and finally at over 3,000m.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Dickson, Professor James
Creator Roles:
Dickson, J. H.Conceptualization, Data curation, Investigation, Methodology, Project administration, Visualization, Writing – original draft, Writing – review and editing
Authors: Dickson, J. H., Oeggl, K. D., Kofler, W., Hofbauer, W. K., Porley, R., Rothero, G. P., Schmidl, A., and Heiss, A. G.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:PLoS ONE
Publisher:Public Library of Science
ISSN:1932-6203
ISSN (Online):1932-6203
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 Dickson et al
First Published:First published in PLoS ONE 14(10):e0223752
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons license

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