Feeds

Cavemen innocent in MAMMOTH MURDER case: DNA evidence

It was the climate wot done it, reckon Swedish researchers

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Boffins have claimed that the demise of the woolly mammoth was caused by climate change, offering up an alternate theory to the premise that its spot on the human menu was to blame for the species' extinction.

British and Swedish researchers examined 300 mammoth carcasses from around the world and found that populations tumbled during warm periods known as interglacials, which fell between chilly ice ages. Populations of the hairy beasts became split up during these long warm spells, with smaller populations clinging on in cold, icy regions in different parts of the world.

In the hotter eras, populations became "extremely dynamic", with numbers of mammoths plunging dramatically in some places and shooting up in others, depending on the climate.

We are currently living in an interglacial period which has lasted since the the end of the Pleistocene Era, the era when modern humans started to use tools. It was previously believed that group of hungry humans used these tools to hunt the slow-moving mammoths to extinction.

“We found that a previous warm period some 120,000 years ago caused populations to decline and become fragmented, in line with what we would expect for cold-adapted species such as the woolly mammoth”, said Eleftheria Palkopoulou from the Swedish Museum of Natural History, who was lead author of the report.

During this ancient heatwave, when sea levels were high and the climate was roughly as warm as it is today, mammoths became confined to small, cold areas.

“This suggests that spells of warm climate made the mammoth more susceptible to extinction”, said Dr Love Dalén, who also works at the Swedish Museum of Natural History.

This population fragmentation also led to the development of a unique type of mammoth in Europe, which existed when the continent was frozen solid.

The team found that a genetically distinct species of European mammoth was then muscled out by Siberian mammoths when the world froze about 30,000 years ago.

The Russian mammoths' reign last about 16,000 years, until the world once again began to warm.

“It thus seems likely that environmental changes played a significant role in shaping the woolly mammoth's demographic history, with warm periods restricting the amount of available habitat and cold periods leading to population expansions,” the report said.

Now the team wants to resolve why the mammoth survived "in refugia"(a phrase used to denote small pockets of once common animals) during early interglacials but not the Holocene, the name for the current warm period we are living through.

"To understand why the species as a whole became extinct, we therefore must look more closely into these final places where mammoths survived, such as St. Paul and Wrangel Islands [in the Bering Sea]”, added Dr. Ian Barnes from Royal Holloway University, London.

The report is titled Holarctic genetic structure and range dynamics in the woolly mammoth and was published by the Royal Society. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.