Sunday 1 March 2020

The last woolly mammoths on Earth had disastrous DNA

They were the last mammoths alive, but they weren't that healthy.

Dwarf woolly mammoths that lived on Siberia's Wrangel Island until about 4,000 years ago were plagued by genetic problems, carrying DNA that increased their risk of diabetes, developmental defects and low sperm count, a new study finds.

These mammoths couldn't even smell flowers, the researchers reported. 

"I have never been to Wrangel Island, but I am told by people who have that in the springtime, it's just basically covered in flowers," study lead researcher Vincent Lynch, an assistant professor of biological sciences at the University at Buffalo in New York, told Live Science. "[The mammoths] probably couldn't smell any of that."

Wrangel Island is a peculiarity. The vast majority of woolly mammoths died out at the end of the last ice age, about 10,500 years ago. But because of rising sea levels, a population of woolly mammoths became trapped on Wrangel Island and continued living there until their demise about 3,700 years ago. This population was so isolated and so small that it didn't have much genetic diversity, the researchers wrote in the new study.

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