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Before the end of the last ice age, the northern four Channel Islands of California were linked in a single contiguous island only 4.7 miles offshore. Geography took its present shape after the continental ice sheets melted and sea levels rose 120 metres. There is also evidence to suggest that a submerged island, Calafia, lay between Santa Rosae and the mainland.
Santa Rosae is perhaps best known for having had a population of pygmy mammoths (Mammuthus exilis), which became extinct over 12,000 years ago, and for the 13,000-year-old skeleton of Arlington Springs Man, which is the oldest set of human remains yet found in North America.
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