Thanks to modern technology, researchers have succeeded in creating a unique picture of how the vegetation and wildlife of the Arctic have evolved over the past fifty thousand years. The new findings concerning, among other things, the Siberian woolly mammoth have been published in the journal Nature by an international research team, including Lund University.
We already know that mammoths survived on the isolated Wrangel Islands in the Arctic Ocean off northeastern Siberia until about 4,000 years ago. But in our study, we can show that it survived in Siberia, where it was previously thought to have become extinct 10,700 years ago, says Per Muller, a geology researcher at Lund University.
– They did not die suddenly, as previously thought, but rather a slow and rather painful extinction.
DNA sequences were extracted from sediments from 74 sites around the Arctic. By comparing the collected samples to DNA databases, where the total genomes of plants and animals are mapped, the researchers got a more detailed picture of how and when vegetation changed, and how the distribution of large animals changed with it. .
– The animal has one skeleton and the probability of its preservation in sediments is very small. On the other hand, they consistently left fingerprints of DNA in the form of droppings, urine, skin and hair cells, and these are the ones we sampled, thus producing much younger ages of extinction for many species.
On the Tajmir Peninsula in central Siberia, the youngest DNA traces of a woolly mammoth are dated 3,900 years ago.
– After the ice age ended, there was a good rise in temperature and it started to rain a lot. The stable vegetation with the grass, flowering plants and herbs that were the basis of the mammoth’s diet began to disappear. As a result, there was not enough protein to feed the mammoths and the animal population slowly declined.
That mammoths were able to survive much later in Tajmir, as opposed to eastern Siberia or in Alaska, is probably due to the fact that Ice Age vegetation remained there and the area was dry and cold, says Per Muller.
lack of food
It was previously assumed that humans exterminated mammoths through hunting, but the researchers found no support for this theory in the new study. Instead, most evidence suggests that humans coexisted with mammoths for a long time.
– Of course man hunted mammoths, but that was not what became the nail in the coffin. Per Muller says it became extinct due to changing vegetation, which in turn caused climate change.
He lived in the United States and Mexico and died 11,000 years ago. It had large pastures and probably not much fur.
It originated in northeastern Siberia 700,000 years ago and died 4,000 years ago. With woolly fur, small ears, fat deposits, and reduced cold sensitivity, it has adapted to colder climates.
He lived in northern Eurasia from 1.7 million to 200 thousand years ago. It had different teeth and was much larger than other mammoths.
Source: Stockholm University
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