Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Lack of fresh water killed the last mammoths, study finds

 AUGUST 2, 2016

by Chuck Bednar

While most of the world’s wooly mammoth population died out by approximately 10,500 years ago, one group managed to survive for another 5,000 years before climate change finally caused their water supply to dry up, according to the authors of a new study.

The research, which was led by Pennsylvania State University professor Dr. Russell Graham and published in this week’s edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that a group of mammoths living on St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea outlived most of their relatives, but increasingly shallow water ultimately left them unable to quench their thirst.

According to BBC News and the Daily Mail, post-Ice Age warming of the planet caused the sea levels to rise and the mammoths’ island habitat to shrink in size. Furthermore, some of the freshwater lakes that they used to keep hydrated were flooded by saltwater from the ocean, leading to increased competition for the few remaining watering holes. The increasing number of mammoths using these lakes ultimately made them unusable as well, Dr. Graham said.

“As the other lakes dried up, the animals congregated around the water holes. They were milling around, which would destroy the vegetation – we see this with modern elephants,” he explained to BBC News. “And this allows for the erosion of sediments to go into the lake, which is creating less and less fresh water. The mammoths were contributing to their own demise.”

Research said to be relevant to modern-day island populations
Dr. Graham and his colleagues reached this conclusion after analyzing the remains of 14 wooly mammoths using radiocarbon dating, and collecting sediments from underneath the lake floor in order to study their contents in order to determine what the lake environment was like at various points throughout history.

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