Study Reveals Why Most Woolly Mammoth Fossils Are Male

Posted: Nov 5 2017, 2:12pm CST | by , Updated: Nov 5 2017, 2:14pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Study Reveals Why Most Woolly Mammoth Fossils are Male
Сredit: Hawkoffire via photopincc

Young male mammoths more often fell into natural traps and died

Woolly mammoths were enormous herbivores that lived during the last ice age and went extinct some 10,000 years ago.

A number of fossilized mammoth specimens have been collected over the years and it is really surprising that most of those remains belonged to males of the species rather than females. Now, Swedish researches believe they have finally solved the intriguing mystery.

The explanation, according to the new study, is that inexperienced male mammoths more often travelled alone and more likely met disastrous ends. They were killed by falling through thin ice, tumbling into holes or getting stuck in mudflows. The fossils buried in those places remain well preserved and safe.

“Most bones, tusks, and teeth from mammoths and other Ice Age animals haven't survived," said Love Dalen of the Swedish Museum of Natural History. "It is highly likely that the remains that are found in Siberia these days have been preserved because they have been buried, and thus protected from weathering. The new findings imply that male mammoths more often died in a way that meant their remains were buried, perhaps by falling through lake ice in winter or getting stuck in bogs.”

Researchers made this new discovery by examining the genomes of woolly mammoth populations. As a part of this effort, they had to determine the sex of the individuals and it turned out that most of fossilized remains came from the males. Given the fact that ratio of females to males was likely balanced at birth.

The findings suggest that woolly mammoths lived similarly to modern elephants. The herds of elephants are led by an experienced adult female. Much like today’s elephants, young male mammoths were more likely to travel alone, away from the herd and got themselves into the dangerous situations. As a result, they often died in a rather unfortunate manner.

“It became apparent that we were finding an excess of male samples, which we found very interesting," said Dalen. “Without the benefit of living in a herd led by an experienced female, male mammoths may have had a higher risk of dying in natural traps such as bogs, crevices, and lakes.”

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