Ice Age facts

I’m planning to write a story set in the Ice Age (or an Ice Age, anyway). It’s not necessarily going to corrospond to an actual historical ice age, but I want to have my basic facts straight. What can you tell me about the general flora, fauna, and seasons in an icy North America? (I was thinking about maybe the La Brea area/era, but you can pick any location or time period, as long as there’s a lot known about it).

Probably doesn’t help, but I can give you a complete list of the (non-microscopic) flora and fauna in New England during the last ice age (ending about 10,000 years ago):
Not much that lives underneath nearly a mile thick sheet of ice.

It was cold.

Thank you. You guys are a lot of help. :rolleyes:

Nice list of ice age flora and fauna at La Brea here:

You won’t be far wrong going with that info as La Brea is probably the best documented US ice age site.

Oh sorry, I didn’t realize that us not doing your research for you was such an inconvenience. Would you like us to write the book for you while we are at it? :rolleyes:

I’d appreciate it if you both were about 20% less snarky. Can you help me out?

General Questions Moderator

Okay, okay! I was going to do some of my own research, you know, I just wanted to learn something that I might not learn from Google. I do believe that is the point of this forum, yes? I’m sorry I got snarky, I was just annoyed at being told that the ice age was cold.

Okay, that settled and out of the way, can I get some help on this Ice Age thing?

And I suppose I should have thought twice and not posted what I did. This is not the forum for snark. Hand shake? How about a hug?

Okay. Shakes hands


General Questions Moderator

I think you’d get a more useful answer if you were more specific and if you had even gone so far as to look at Wikipedia first.

The last ice age was (has been, if you think it’s not over) roughly 100,000 years long. Modern humans weren’t present at all for earlier ice ages. They weren’t present in North American until ~14,000 years ago, right at the end of that ice age. So, unless your story is purely about animals, you do mean one specific ice age and you want only part of it, something between 13,000 and 8,000 BC.

If you can settle on a place and maybe on the plot devices you want to include, I’m sure people can help you find what you need.

One interesting aspect of North America in the ice ages were the Lake Missoula floods: Missoula floods - Wikipedia

A lobe of the Cordilleran ice sheet dammed up the Clark Fork river, making a huge lake in many of the valleys of western Montana. As the lake filled up, the ice dam weakened and eventually gave way, releasing enormous floods across roughly all of eastern Washington, eventually rushing through the Columbia gorge to the ocean, leaving some spectacular landforms behind. There might have been people around at the time of the later few floods, so maybe that could be your surprise ending!

What exactly are you looking for? LaBrea was an earlier, wetter Southern California – and the ice was nowhere near it. There were at least four advances, dating from about 600,000 Y.B.P. to about 12,000 Y.B.P. (and those figures are all arguable) – and with warmer periods between them, sometimes warmer than present conditions.

Go for this: A fair amount of megafauna. One of the key eco-facts about post-Ice Age faunas is the near absence of big game and large predators from most of the world. Typical Tertiary and interglacial faunas looked more like the Serengeti or Kruger Natl. Park than they did anything that exists outside Africa today. All this is south of the bad-weather area, of course – but that’s quite a lot of the planet. The tundra and taiga (boreal conifer forest) were south of the ice-covered area. Lots more well-watered area, from meltwater and seasonal run-off from the south edge of the cold-terrain area.

Populate North America with dire wolf, various species of mammoth and mastodon, several species of ground sloth, herds of camels and horses, possibly glyptodon, short-faced bear, American lion, an oversized beaver, probably some surviving antilocaprids (the pronghorn is the last survivor of a broad radiation of American ‘antelopes’). Forests over much of the East and California – redwoods in what are now the eastern suburbs of L.A. and north from there along both ranges. The Southwest was usually arid-fertile (think of dry-cluimate crop areas) not strictly desert. Lower sea level meant more exposed continental shelf – just draw an ‘edge’ around the present coasts except where there are shallow seas like the N.C. sounds and some of the Gulf coast areas, which were dry, and where there were steep drops (think California coast) where there wasn’t much difference from today.

Figure most of Canada and the northern tier of states were under ice during the advances.

What might be interesting to work with is Alaska-Beringia. Figure bitter cold and miserable weathr, but dry open land connecting Asia and Alaska – which is for the moment a dead end thanks to ice east and south of it. But you get a mixture of Asiatic and American species that can handle cold.

That should be a starter.

Thanks guys, especially**, polycarp** and dracoi. I think I have enough to write my story now.