Woolly Mammoths Died Out Due To DNA Mutations

Posted: Mar 3 2017, 4:39am CST | by , Updated: Mar 3 2017, 5:12am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

Woolly Mammoths Died Out due to DNA Mutations
Photo Credit: University of Adelaide
  • Woolly Mammoths faced Genetic Isolation before they Died Out
 

It looks like woolly mammoths faced genetic isolation before they died out.

Lowered populations created a mutation and meltdown among the woolly mammoths as far as their gene pool is concerned. These last few woolly mammoths eked out an existence on an island until they eventually died out a few thousand years ago.

They were some of the largest species of plant-eaters that thrived in North America, Siberia and Beringia. It was the warm climate and hunter gatherers that led to their extinct status on the continent. This took place 10,000 years ago.  

As for the small island numbers, they remained extant until 3700 years ago before all the woolly mammoths were wiped out without a trace. A comparison of the genome from a mainland mammoth that was 45,000 years old was made to one that lived 4300 years ago on the isolated island.

The latter had lived among 300 other mammoths of its kind on Wrangel Island. This mammoth of the island had many deleterious mutations in its genome sequence. It did not function very well.

It didn’t have the organ of olfaction so detecting odors was a task. Also certain proteins found in the urine were missing. Social ranking and mating were difficult activities for it hence the ensuing genomic recession. 

Even its coat was of a translucent satin kind. This comparison between a healthy genomic population and an unhealthy one gave scientists a chance to observe the degeneration of a species at close quarters.

As the population goes down, the gene pool also undergoes degradation. This study also sends a clear message to conservationists around the world.

This is that by protecting a small and limited population of animals or plants, the matter of conservation is not resolved since the genomic meltdown has already occurred and the species is at a disadvantage. 

Even woolly mammoth de-extinction may lead to the bad genes appearing in the animals. Thus one ought to think twice before allowing these animals entry into the modern gene pool by bringing them back from their extinct status.

Bad mutations are hard to overcome. While the environment does indeed have an effect on the genes, it is only half the story. The genes contain the physical characteristics and some functional traits of the species too.

Any diseases or disadvantages that the animal will inherit cannot be wiped out in a jiffy. These ailments are there for a lifetime and the animal will have to face them for better or for worse.

The study regarding this was published in the journal PLOS Genetics

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