Posted On Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 09:00:12 AM
London: Rising temperatures, changing vegetation and the spread of humans all contributed to the extinction of the woolly mammoth, according to a new study that said no single factor was to blame.
The tusked mammal’s demise was gradual, not sudden, said the authors, disputing earlier assertions that the giants were wiped out quickly – either by disease, humans or a catastrophic weather event.
“It wasn’t just one thing that took them out everywhere all at once,” said author Glen MacDonald of the University of California.
“With the mammoths, it was just a story of this almost continuous litany of challenges that they faced in terms of changing climate, huge changes in habitat and then the spread of humans and potentially human predation to new areas.”
The cause of the woolly beasts’ disappearance has generated fierce debate among experts.
Some hold that the giants that once strode across Eurasia and north America were hunted to extinction by humans, while others blame global warming for decimating a species adapted for colder climes.
A colony of woolly mammoths is believed to have survived up to about 4,000 years ago on what is today Russia’s Wrangel Island, north of Siberia in the Arctic Ocean.
In a paper published in Nature Communications, a team of researchers in the United States and Russia said their own analysis of radiocarbon-dated evidence has revealed a pattern of slow demise caused by several factors.
“This is an extinction that took a long time. It extended over thousands of years,” said MacDonald.
The team asserts that woolly mammoths were abundant up to 45,000 to 30,000 years ago in continental Beringia, a land bridge that linked Alaska and eastern Siberia before it was submerged by the sea.