Although extinct now for around 4500 years, the woolly mammoth was one of the most magnificent animals ever to walk the earth. Closely related to our modern day elephants, they were a much larger species often equipped with long curved tusks and, in northern species, a covering of long, coarse hair.
The largest known species, the Songhua River mammoth (Mammuthus sungari) , reached heights of at least 5 metres (16 ft) at the shoulder. Mammoths would probably normally weigh in the region of 6 to 8tons, but exceptionally large males may have exceeded 12 tons. However, most species of mammoth were only about as large as a modern Asian elephant.
Why the Mammoth became extinct?
Of all the mammoths species that had ever existed, the woolly mammoth was the last species of the genus to survive. However, most populations of the woolly mammoth in North America and Eurasia, as well all the Columbian mammoths in North America, ended up dying out around the time of the last glacial retreat approximately 12,000 years ago. This was part of a mass extinction of megafauna in northern Eurasia and the Americas.Prehistoric humans, who reached North America at the same time and are known to have hunted many of the species that disappeared at this period in time, are often viewed as responsible for this extinction wave.
Another theory suggests mammoths may have fallen victim to an infectious disease. A combination of climate change and hunting by humans may also explain their extinction. Homo erectus is known to have consumed mammoth meat as early as 1.8 million years ago.
However, it new research seems to prove that the last glacial retreat did not spell the end of the mammoth! In fact, work on the sediments in Alaska now indicate that mammoths survived on the American mainland until just 10,000 years ago. Even more surprisingly, a small population of mammoths appear to have survived on St. Paul Island, Alaska, up until 3750 BC, and the small mammoths of Wrangel Island survived until 1650 BC!
So while mammoths may not have passed into extinction that long ago, scientists do still seem to agree that they are all extinct and hunting by early humans is likely to be one of the major causes. However, research is now in place which could see the mammoth return through the science of genetic.
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