Woolly mammoths were ‘wiped out by humans AND climate change’ – and would otherwise still be here today
PREHISTORIC humans may have been responsible for the extinction of the Woolly Mammoth after all, according to research.
Simulations suggest that a combination of hunting by hungry humans and dramatic climate change killed off the mighty beasts 4,000 years ago.
Woolly mammoth would not have died out 4,000 years ago were it not for the presence of humans, according to research[/caption]
Previously, scientists have suggested that extreme weather or genetic disease may have driven the demise of the species.
According to new research from experts in Australia, mammoths would not have died out when they did if it were not for humans.
“In the absence of humans, we would expect woolly mammoths would have persisted for an extra 4,000 years in some areas,” Dr Damien Fordham at the University of Adelaide in South Australia told New Scientist.
The models also suggested that mammoths survived longer in several locations across Eurasia than was previously believed.
The huge beasts were once common across North America and Siberia[/caption]
“People should be sending out expeditions to find fossil material,” Dr Fordham said.
The Woolly Mammoth – the last surviving mammoths species – first appeared 400,000 years ago in East Asia.
Growing 11ft tall and weighing up to six metric tons, its closest living relative today is the Asian elephant.
Mammoths roamed across North America and Siberia but largely disappeared from the mainland around 10,000 years ago.
Isolated populations survived on Arctic islands until as recently as 4,000 years ago.
The key factor behind the mammoth’s extinction remains a hot topic among scientists.
Many believe that hunting dealt the killer blow, though this is disputed. Others suggest that a warming climate stripped the species of its habitat.
“You will find some people who adamantly argue that it’s only climate or only humans,” Dr Fordham told New Scientist.
Woolly mammoth – the key facts
Here’s what you need to know…
- The woolly mammoth is an ancient creature that is now extinct
- The species first appeared 400,000 years ago in East Asia when it “diverged” from the steppe mammoth
- Its closest living relative today is the Asian elephant
- Woolly mammoths are one of the best-studied prehistoric animal, due to the discovery of frozen carcasses in Siberia and Alaska
- We also have evidence of them in the form of skeletons, teeth, droppings and cave paintings
- A woolly mammoth was similarly sized to a modern African elephant
- Males were typically around 11ft tall, and weighted up to 6 metric tons
- Females were smaller at 9.5ft tall and 4 metric tons
- A newborn calf weighed around 90 kilos, or 200 lb
- Woolly mammoths were well-adapted to the frosty temperatures of the last Ice Age, thanks to their fur coats
- They largely disappeared from the mailand around 10,000 years ago, thanks to a shrinking habitat and hunting by humans
- Isolated populations survived on Arctic islands until as recently as 4,000 years ago
His team’s research suggests a combination of the two was ultimately responsible, with humans knocking over the final domino.
Their models simulated the Woolly Mammoths population history from 22,000 years ago to their extinction.
They included the impact of global warming pushing the mammoths’ habitat northward, as well as humans migrating across Eurasia.
Ultimately, humans “hastened climate-driven declines” by up to 4,000 years, according to a research paper on the findings published last week.
That means that, were it not for humans, it’s possible the Woolly Mammoth would still be alive today.
“We’ve been able to show that humans had a much longer role on that extinction pathway,” Dr Fordham said.
The results were published in the pre-print server BioArxiv. They have not yet been independently peer reviewed by researchers.
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