Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers solve mammoth evolutionary puzzle: The woollies weren't picky, happy to interbreed

Date:
May 31, 2011
Source:
McMaster University
Summary:
A DNA-based study sheds new light on the complex evolutionary history of the woolly mammoth, suggesting it mated with a completely different and much larger species. The research found the woolly mammoth, which lived in the cold climate of the Arctic tundra, interbred with the Columbian mammoth, which preferred the more temperate regions of North America and was some 25 percent larger.

Illustration comparing Columbian mammoth and the woolly mammoth.
Credit: Image courtesy of McMaster University

A DNA-based study sheds new light on the complex evolutionary history of the woolly mammoth, suggesting it mated with a completely different and much larger species.

Related Articles


The research, which appears in the BioMed Central's open access journal Genome Biology, found the woolly mammoth, which lived in the cold climate of the Arctic tundra, interbred with the Columbian mammoth, which preferred the more temperate regions of North America and was some 25 per cent larger.

"There is a real fascination with the history of mammoths, and this analysis helps to contextualize its evolution, migration and ecology" says Hendrik Poinar, associate professor and Canada Research Chair in the departments of Anthropology and Biology at McMaster University.

Poinar and his team at the McMaster Ancient DNA Centre, along with colleagues from the United States and France, meticulously sequenced the complete mitochondrial genome of two Columbian mammoths, one found in the Huntington Reservoir in Utah, the other found near Rawlins, Wyoming. They compared these to the first complete mitochrondrial genome of an endemic North American woolly mammoth.

"We are talking about two very physically different 'species' here. When glacial times got nasty, it was likely that woollies moved to more pleasant conditions of the south, where they came into contact with the Columbians at some point in their evolutionary history," he says. "You have roughly 1-million years of separation between the two, with the Columbian mammoth likely derived from an early migration into North American approximately 1.5-million years ago, and their woolly counterparts emigrating to North America some 400,000 years ago."

"We think we may be looking at a genetic hybrid," says Jacob Enk, a graduate student in the McMaster Ancient DNA Centre. "Living African elephant species hybridize where their ranges overlap, with the bigger species out-competing the smaller for mates. This results in mitochondrial genomes from the smaller species showing up in populations of the larger. Since woollies and Columbians overlapped in time and space, it's not unlikely that they engaged in similar behaviour and left a similar signal."

The samples used for the analyses date back approximately 12,000 years. All mammoths became extinct approximately 10,000 years ago except for small isolated populations on islands off the coast of Siberia and Alaska.

Funding for this study was provided by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council and the Canadian Research Chairs program.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Jacob Enk, Alison Devault, Regis Debruyne, Christine E King, Todd Treangen, Dennis O'Rourke, Steven L Salzberg, Daniel Fisher, Ross MacPhee and Hendrik Poinar. Complete Columbian mammoth mitogenome suggests interbreeding with woolly mammoths. Genome Biology, 2011; 12: R51 DOI: 10.1186/gb-2011-12-5-r51

Cite This Page:

McMaster University. "Researchers solve mammoth evolutionary puzzle: The woollies weren't picky, happy to interbreed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110531085004.htm>.
McMaster University. (2011, May 31). Researchers solve mammoth evolutionary puzzle: The woollies weren't picky, happy to interbreed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110531085004.htm
McMaster University. "Researchers solve mammoth evolutionary puzzle: The woollies weren't picky, happy to interbreed." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110531085004.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

AP (Dec. 17, 2014) Stanford University wants to unlock the secrets of the player piano. Researchers are restoring and studying self-playing pianos and the music rolls that recorded major composers performing their own work. (Dec. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Newsy (Dec. 16, 2014) A group of scientists looked at the genetics behind the domestication of the horse and showed how human manipulation changed horses' DNA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

AFP (Dec. 16, 2014) A collection of rare manuscripts by composers Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet are due to go on sale at auction on December 17. Duration: 00:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 15, 2014) Researchers are looking to the past to gain a clearer picture of what the future holds for ice in the Arctic. A project to analyse and digitize ship logs dating back to the 1850's aims to lengthen the timeline of recorded ice data. Ben Gruber 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