What killed the woolly mammoth? A whole bunch of things, say scientists. (+video)
A combination of climate change, shifting habitats, and human predation drove the woolly mammoth to extinction, says a new study that rules out a single cause for the creature's demise.
Woolly mammoths were apparently driven to extinction by a multitude of culprits, with climate change, human hunters and shifting habitats all playing a part in the long decline of these giants, researchers say.
Woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) wandered the planet for about 250,000 years, ranging from Europe to Asia to North America covered in hair up to 20 inches (50 centimeters) long and possessing curved tusks up to 16 feet (4.9 meters) long. Nearly all of these giants vanished from Siberia by about 10,000 years ago, although dwarf mammoths survived on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean until 3,700 years ago.
Scientists have often speculated over what might have driven the mammoths to extinction. For instance, for years researchers suspected that ancient human tribes hunted the mammoths and other ice age giants to oblivion. Others have suggested that a meteor strike might have drastically altered the climate in North America about 12,900 years ago, wiping out most of the large mammals there, the so-called "Younger Dryas impact hypothesis."
Now an analysis of thousands of fossils, artifacts and environmental sites spanning millennia suggest that no one killer is to blame for the demise of the woolly mammoths.
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