Scientists Reveal ‘Freak’ Reason Behind Woolly Mammoth Extinction

Recent genetic research has led experts to believe that a devastating storm or a pandemic wiped off the last of the woolly mammoths on Earth. These catastrophic events imply that these unique species would still be alive today if an extinction catastrophe hadn’t happened.

These enormous animals inhabited the old tundras of Asia, Europe, and North America more than 300,000 years ago. About four thousand years ago, the last of the breed vanished from an Arctic island close to Siberia.

A tiny group of woolly mammoths resided on Wrangel Island for almost six thousand years, according to scientists. 

For a long time, the conventional wisdom was that woolly mammoths would experience a “genomic meltdown” when they had collected enough dangerous genetic changes due to inbreeding.

The genomes of twenty-one mammoths found between Wrangel Island and the mainland of Siberia were analyzed in detail by Dalén and colleagues. The samples were found to span 50,000 years.

Findings indicate that the ancient animals’ population declined sharply after becoming stranded on Wrangel Island due to increasing sea levels brought about by global warming. 

There was a time during the Holocene when there were just eight mammoths left in the whole population.

The study’s authors pointed out that this instance did not follow the typical pattern of a species’ genetic composition rapidly declining. The population, on the other hand, recovered quickly from the bottleneck and has been relatively stable ever since. The research found indications that the surviving population was either huge or may have changed its ways to avoid mating with near relatives throughout the island’s six thousand years of isolation.

The exact cause of the species’ extinction is unknown and may never be determined with certainty. Hospeciesalén has proposed that a virus similar to the avian flu could be the culprit.

The experts have also proposed other ideas, such as the possibility of extreme weather or the rapid accumulation of volcanic ash, both of which might lead to a food shortage on the island. 

In a world where biodiversity is steadily decreasing, this new tale about the mammoth extinction has important lessons to teach us about the present. 

The World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report from 2022 states that animal populations have dropped dramatically, with an average fall of 69% during the previous half-century.