Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ancient DNA Traces Woolly Mammoth's Disappearance

Date:
June 10, 2007
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
Some ancient-DNA evidence has offered new clues to a very cold case: the disappearance of the last woolly mammoths, one of the most iconic of all Ice Age giants, according to a recent article. DNA lifted from the bones, teeth, and tusks of the extinct mammoths revealed a "genetic signature" of a range expansion after the last interglacial period. After the mammoths' migration, the population apparently leveled off, and one of two lineages died out.

Mammoth skeleton on display in a museum.
Credit: iStockphoto/Adam Booth

Some ancient-DNA evidence has offered new clues to a very cold case: the disappearance of the last woolly mammoths, one of the most iconic of all Ice Age giants, according to a recent article. DNA lifted from the bones, teeth, and tusks of the extinct mammoths revealed a "genetic signature" of a range expansion after the last interglacial period. After the mammoths' migration, the population apparently leveled off, and one of two lineages died out.

Related Articles


"In combination with the results on other species, a picture is emerging of extinction not as a sudden event at the end of the last ice age, but as a piecemeal process over tens of thousands of years involving progressive loss of genetic diversity," said Dr. Ian Barnes, of Royal Holloway, University of London. "For the mammoth, this seems much more likely to have been driven by environmental rather than human causes, even if humans might have been responsible for killing off the small, terminal populations that were left."

Barnes, along with Dr. Adrian Lister of the University College London and the Natural History Museum in London and others, had earlier found evidence that bison, bears, and lions underwent major population shifts twenty-five to fifty thousand years ago. Those results came as a surprise, the researchers said, because scientists tended to think that the major environmental changes happened about fifteen to twenty-five thousand years ago, when the glaciers reached their fullest extent. The findings also offered early human hunters a potential alibi; they didn't come on the scene in large numbers until even later.

In search of a general pattern in the new study, Barnes and Lister's team looked to the extinct woolly mammoth. What they found, however, was an "interesting pattern, not like those of the other species."

Their genetic data indicate that Siberian mammoths expanded from a small base some time before sixty thousand years ago. Moreover, they found two distinct genetic groups, implying that mammoths had diverged in isolation for some time before merging back into a single population. The DNA further suggests that no later than forty thousand years ago, one of the groups died out, leaving only the second alive at the time of the mammoth's last gasp.

"At a time when we should be very concerned about the potential extinction of many existing large mammals, studying those that occurred in the geologically recent past can provide many insights," Lister said. "Our work, together with that of others, shows that the conditions for extinction can be set up long before the actual extinction event."

The researchers include Ian Barnes of Royal Holloway, University of London in Surrey, UK; Beth Shapiro of University of Oxford in Oxford, UK; Mark G. Thomas of University College London in London, UK; Adrian Lister of the Natural History Museum and University College London in London, UK;Tatiana Kuznetsova of Moscow State University in Moscow, Russia; Andrei Sher of Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, Russia; Dale Guthrie University of Alaska in Fairbanks, Alaska.

This work was supported by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (IB), the Royal Society (BS), and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (AS).

Reference: Barnes et al.: "Genetic Structure and Extinction of the Woolly Mammoth, Mammuthus primigenius." Publishing in Current Biology 17, 1--4, June 19, 2007. DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2007.05.035.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Ancient DNA Traces Woolly Mammoth's Disappearance." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 June 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070607171134.htm>.
Cell Press. (2007, June 10). Ancient DNA Traces Woolly Mammoth's Disappearance. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070607171134.htm
Cell Press. "Ancient DNA Traces Woolly Mammoth's Disappearance." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070607171134.htm (accessed March 1, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Gerbils, Not Rats, Might Be To Blame For The Black Death

Gerbils, Not Rats, Might Be To Blame For The Black Death

Newsy (Feb. 24, 2015) The "black death" that killed tens of millions of people has been blamed on rats for years, but now researchers say they may have gotten a bad rap. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Timbuktu Manuscripts Face an Uncertain Future

Timbuktu Manuscripts Face an Uncertain Future

AFP (Feb. 23, 2015) Two years ago a large number of manuscripts were taken from Timbuktu for safe keeping. Now the question is whether to return them. Duration: 02:50 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Did A Mummy End Up In A 1,000-Year-Old Buddha Statue?

How Did A Mummy End Up In A 1,000-Year-Old Buddha Statue?

Newsy (Feb. 23, 2015) A CT scan has revealed a mummified Chinese monk inside a Buddha statue. The remains date back about 1,000 years. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rare First Folio Arrives at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Rare First Folio Arrives at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Feb. 23, 2015) A rare First Folio discovered in a French library arrives at the Shakespeare&apos;s Globe Theatre in London, where the Bard&apos;s plays were first performed. Elly Park reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins