Researchers have determined the reason for the Wooly mammoth’s extinction on a remote Alaskan island. According to a recent study, the lack of water and the reduced piece of land marked the species death.
Scientists have determined mammoths disappeared from the face of the Earth 10,500 years ago. A group of Wooly mammoth’s managed to outlive that number in Alaska. A distant and remote island off the coast of Alaska served as home for a group of Wooly mammoths for 5,600 years after their species extinction. Climate changes contributed to their disappearance.
Wooly mammoth’s as a species
Wooly mammoth’s lived on Earth during the Pleistocene period, almost 11,700 years ago, as they were one of the last mammoth’s species to walk our world. These species of giant and ancient elephants, diverged from another large species known as steppe mammoths and according to researchers, the modern day Asian elephant, is the closest about the extinct species.
Science has been able to study well this species of ancient animals, thanks to the finding of frozen carcasses in Alaska and Siberia. Prehistoric paintings, as well as skeletons and teeth, have contributed to the studies.
Researchers and modern-day investigations have been able to determine that wooly mammoths were almost the same size as a current African elephant. The average height of a male mammoth was between 2.7 and 3.4 meters and weighed up to 6 tons.
The wooly mammoth’s had a ton of fur on top of their body, to protect them from the ice-cold temperatures they lived in. Making them adequate for surviving the last ice age in the Earth.
These furry giants, mainly survived by eating sedges, grass and drinking tons of water to maintain their massive body hydrated. Early humans contributed to the extinction of these beasts since they used them as fur supplements and food.
— Anooshka Rawden (@anooshka_rawden) August 2, 2016
The two last populations of Woolly mammoths lived on a small Alaska island 5,600 years ago and in Wrangel Island 4,000 years ago.
Contributing to their extinction
St. Paul Island, in Alaska, was once the home of many Wooly mammoth’s, after the rising of the Bering Sea covered a land bridge that connected the island with the rest of the world. Isolating the fur giants. Meanwhile other mammoth’s were facing human hunting, this group of mammoth’s was confronted with a different threat. The climate was changing, and the land was getting scarce which would be the cause of the disappearance.
The investigation, made by Pennsylvania State University researchers, has held thanks to the studying of mammoth DNA traces and fungal spores that were found on St. Paul’s island on a small lake. The spores helped researchers understand when the mammoth’s disappeared and by studying the lake’s sediments the team was able to determine the water condition’s at the moment.
Feeling threatened by the short amount of land, Woolly mammoths of St. Paul Island gathered around the small freshwater lakes they had left in the location. The amount of water wasn’t enough for all of the Giants.
The majority of lakes was covered in seawater, what made it even harder for the giant beasts to survive as they had to share a small amount of land and water. Researchers assure that even though the little amount of water contributed to their extinction, another factor played a key role. The gathering and congregation of the massive mammals harmed the vegetation around them. There was a significant amount of the fur giants stepping on their food source and destroying it.
“The mammoths were contributing to their own demise,” said Prof. Russell Graham, lead author of the study, to the BBC.
Wooly mammoths, as modern day elephants, consumed an enormous amount of water to remain healthy. Russell explains they drank up from 70 to 200 Lt of water per day, just as elephants do today. Climate changes didn’t help the mammoth’s situation, since there weren’t enough rainfalls or melting snow that could maintain their hydration. The merging of lack of food and water, caused the species to die very fast.
— Lisa Brouwers (@LJBrouwers) August 2, 2016
In the research, the authors explain how climate change could affect our modern day elephants in a similar way since freshwater is not an infinite resource and could eventually force many species to disappear.
Source: BBC News