The last majestic woolly mammoth wandering the Earth died some 4,000 years ago, and experts assumed for decades that these enormous relatives of elephants became extinct because they were ruthlessly killed by humans. However, DNA analysis of the animals’ former haunts shows a different narrative.
The more likely reason, experts now believe, was fast climate change, which wiped out the animals’ food source. However, in addition to explaining the riddle of the vanishing mammoths, these discoveries may provide a look into the destiny of other species if our current climate catastrophe is not addressed.
We have shown that climate change, specifically precipitation, directly drives the change in vegetation, humans had no impact on the mammoths at all based on our models, Yucheng Wang, a zoologist said in a report.
These lovely animals that ate grass and flowers coexisted with Neanderthals. While many encounters were pleasant, the animals were a valuable commodity when it came to producing fur coats, musical and artistic instruments, and substantial meals. This is due to its thick, chocolate-colored fur, strong, gigantic tusks, and massive stature.
Woolly mammoths weighed roughly 6 tonnes and stood about 13 feet tall, according to Wang.
Willerslev headed a team that dissected DNA pieces obtained from Arctic soil where mammoths were known to graze for ten years. The samples were gathered over 20 years and examined using a technique known as DNA shotgun sequencing.
DNA shotgun sequencing is an indirect method of creating genetic profiles that do not need the presence of a human or animal. Instead of gathering genetic information from bones or teeth, the technique reads DNA from remnants of urine or wasted cells. Scientists have also utilized this method to monitor the migration of COVID-19 by generating DNA profiles from sewage remains.
The researchers studying ancient mammoths revealed that populations of the gigantic creatures were being reduced at a rate commensurate with the rapid pace of climatic change at the time. when the temperature warmed up, trees and wetland vegetation took over and replaced the mammoth’s grassland habitats.
The ecology altered, and the biomass of the plants decreased, and the herds of mammoths would not have been able to survive.
Wang further points out that prehistoric people would have spent the majority of their time hunting species far smaller and simpler to catch than huge woolly mammoths, implying that their effect on the animals’ demise was possibly lower than previously assumed.
Another important aspect of the findings, according to Wang, is that we have finally been able to prove that it was not just climate change that was the problem. They were unable to adapt quickly enough when the landscape dramatically changed and their food became scarce.
Because of the pace, the researchers automatically drew comparisons between what happened back then and what looks to be on the horizon presently. For example, our global temperature is increasing so fast that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change now considers many nations’ earlier aim of limiting the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius to be almost unachievable. They claim that unless fast, dramatic action is taken, the situation would worsen.
It demonstrates that nothing is certain when it comes to the consequences of extreme weather fluctuations. The planet would have changed beyond recognition for the earliest people. That may happen again, and we can’t be sure we’ll be there to see it.
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