Inbreeding May Have Caused Woolly Mammoth Extinction

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Researchers at the Rotterdam Museum of Natural History and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden have found evidence that woolly mammoths became extinct due to a combination of inbreeding and climate change. Fossils of woolly mammoths from 12 thousand years ago that were found near the North Sea had extra cervical ribs which is an indication that the animals had a chromosome abnormality or cancer.

Researchers at the Rotterdam Museum of Natural History and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden have found evidence that woolly mammoths became extinct due to a combination of inbreeding and climate change.

Fossils of woolly mammoths from 12 thousand years ago that were found near the North Sea had extra cervical ribs which is an indication that the animals had a chromosome abnormality or cancer.

Data from the study shows that woolly mammoths from the North Sea area are 10 times more likely to have an extra cervical or neck rib than modern elephants.

Jelle Reumer, an author of the study, and paleontologist from the Natural History Museum of Rotterdam and Utrecht University is quoted as saying: "It had aroused our curiosity to find two cervical vertebrae, with large articulation facets for ribs, in the mammoth samples recently dredged from the North Sea. We knew these were just about the last mammoths living there, so we suspected something was happening."

There are two theories about why the woolly mammoths have the deformity, including that climate change isolated groups of the large animals and forced them to inbreed to survive as a species, the other theory is that the mothers could have experienced high levels of stress from starvation and sickness.

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