Climate Change Wiped The Woolly Mammoths Off The Earth, Not Humans


One of the largest species of land mammals ever known to have existed on planet earth, the Woolly Mammoth was a crucial part of early humans’ lifestyle and diet. The giant beasts were hunted for their thick hide and bones, as well as for their meat by humans.

Over the last few centuries, archaeologists have found harpoons and musical instruments made out of mammoth tusks, and pre-historic cave paintings from over tens of thousands of years ago depicting the giant mammals.

The current consensus among scientists has been that the woolly mammoth vanished off the face of the earth some 4000 years ago, and it was humans who hunted them to extinction.

However, new research from the University of Cambridge topples the current assumption on its head. In a paper published in the journal Nature, researchers say it was climate change that drove the Woolly Mammoth into extinction, not pre-historic humans.

Over the last 10 years, the researchers examined environmental DNA corresponding to the periods the species disappeared. The DNA was collected and sequenced from soil samples from various locations in the Arctic where mammoth remains have been found.

The analysis revealed that changes in climate melted icebergs, leading to a loss of vegetation. Without enough vegetation to survive upon, the giant mammals went extinct.

“We have shown that climate change, specifically precipitation, directly drives the change in the vegetation — humans had no impact on at all based on our models,” said Yucheng Wang, lead author of the paper and a zoologist at the University of Cambridge in a statement.

Changes in the temperature caused mammoth habitations to become wet, leading to trees and wetland plants replacing the usual grassland vegetation that the mammoths relied on, according to the researchers. The changes also occurred quite rapidly leaving the species unable to adapt to their new environments and survive.

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