Last ever woolly mammoth died on Wrangel Island

Woolly Mammoths Grazing In Grassland
iStock/Aunt_Spray

Researchers at the University of Helsinki have found the site where the last woolly mammoth lived and died. The 4,000 year old remains were found on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean.

An international research team, from the University of Helsinki, University of Tübingen and the Russian Academy of Sciences, have reconstructed the scenario that could have led to the mammoth’s extinction 4,000 years ago.

The research paper published on Elsevier stated: “The world’s last population of woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) lived on Wrangel Island persisting well into the Holocene, going extinct at ca. 4000 cal BP. According to the frequency of radiocarbon dated mammoth remains from the island, the extinction appears fairly abrupt. This study investigates the ecology of the Wrangel Island mammoth population by means of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur isotope analyses.

“We report new isotope data on 77 radiocarbon dated mammoth specimens from Wrangel Island and Siberia, and evaluate them in relation to previously published isotope data for Pleistocene mammoths from Beringia and lower latitude Eurasia, and the other insular Holocene mammoth population from St. Paul Island.”

Mammoth remains
Juha Karhu

Researchers believe that the combination of living in isolation, on Wrangel Island, extreme weather events, in addition to the introduction of early man, may have led to the extinction of the woolly mammoth.

“We think this reflects the tendency of Siberian mammoths to rely on their reserves of fat to survive through the extremely harsh ice age winters, while Wrangel mammoths, living in milder conditions, simply didn’t need to”, says Dr. Laura Arppe from the Finnish Museum of Natural History Luomus, University of Helsinki.

“It’s easy to imagine that the population, perhaps already weakened by genetic deterioration and drinking water quality issues could have succumbed after something like an extreme weather event,” says professor Hervé Bocherens from the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment at the University of Tübingen, a co-author of the study.

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