Navigation Links
Being good moms couldn't save the woolly mammoth

New research from The University of Western Ontario leads investigators to believe that woolly mammoths living north of the Arctic Circle during the Pleistocene Epoch (approx. 150,000 to 40,000 years ago) began weaning infants up to three years later than modern day African elephants due to prolonged hours of darkness.

This adapted nursing pattern could have contributed to the prehistoric elephant's eventual extinction. The findings were published recently in the journal, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

By studying the chemical composition of adult and infant mammoth teeth, Jessica Metcalfe, an Earth Sciences PhD student working with professor Fred Longstaffe, was able to determine woolly mammoths that once inhabited Old Crow, Yukon didn't begin eating plants and other solid foods before the age of two (and perhaps as late as three) and considers predatory mammals like saber-toothed cats and a lack of sufficient vegetation to be the secondary reasons for delayed weaning.

"In modern Africa, lions can hunt baby elephants but not adults. They can't kill adults. But they can kill babies and by and large, they tend to be successful when they hunt at night because they have adapted night vision," explains Metcalfe, who examined fossil specimens alongside Grant Zazula of the Yukon Paleontology Program. "In Old Crow, where you have long, long hours of darkness, the infants are going to be more vulnerable, so the mothers nursed longer to keep them close."

Metcalfe says delayed weaning by Old Crow mammoths may have further significance for understanding mammoth life histories and extinction.

"Today, a leading cause of infant elephant deaths in Myanmar is insufficient maternal milk production," offers Metcalfe. "Woolly mammoths may have been more vulnerable to the effects of climate change and human hunting than modern elephants not only because of their harsher environment, but also because of the metabolic demands of lactation and prolonged nursing, especially during the longer winter months."

Metcalfe concludes that knowing more about the past, can only help researchers understand more about the present and the future.

"Mammoths lived all over the world for thousands of years, even millions of years, and then became extinct about 10,000 years ago, which was around the time the climate started warming the last time," says Metcalfe. "Understanding their ecology, their adaptations and their behaviour not only gives us insight into why they became extinct but also, potentially, gives us a better understanding of modern day mammals and how they might respond to the current warming of the planet."


Contact: Jeff Renaud
519-661-2111 x85165
University of Western Ontario

Related biology news :

1. Study suggests that being too clean can make people sick
2. Biodiesel from sewage sludge within pennies a gallon of being competitive
3. Selected highlights of the research being presented at the Experimental Biology 2010 meeting
4. The cost of being on your toes
5. Geneticists coordinate action to fight against traffic in human beings
6. Being a standout has its benefits, study shows
7. DNA against traffic in human beings
8. Fear of being laughed at crosses cultural boundaries
9. Ben-Gurion University of the Negev technology being developed for use in Jordan desalination plant
10. Now butterflies are also being counted in China, Australia and Israel
11. Scientists capture the first image of memories being made
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/6/2015)... , Oct. 6, 2015 Track Group, ... today that it has signed a contract with the ... across the full range of sentences under the Department,s ... of the Americas. "This contract with the Virginia DOC ... the US and advances our position as a trusted ...
(Date:10/5/2015)... ) releases ... (NASDAQ: NXTD ), a biometric authentication company focused ... ) releases the following market and ... a biometric authentication company focused on the growing mobile ... ) releases the following market and ...
(Date:10/1/2015)... Oct. 1, 2015  Biometrics includes diverse set ... body characteristics, such as fingerprints, eye retinas, facial ... of biometrics technology has been constantly increasing in ... five years. In addition to the most prominent ... recognition, other means of biometric authentication are rapidly ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/12/2015)... Oct. 12, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ: ... engaged in developing and commercializing novel treatments in oncology, ... Dennis Turpin , the Company,s former Senior Vice ... its Quebec City office.  ... Chief Executive Officer of the Company commented, "After a ...
(Date:10/12/2015)... October 12, 2015 LabStyle Innovations ... Management Solution, today announced its Medical Director, Dr. ... at MobiHealth,s 5th EAI International Conference on Wireless ... through innovations in mobile and wireless technologies," the conference ... from October 14 - 16, 2015. The conference ...
(Date:10/12/2015)... , Oct. 12, 2015 VolitionRx Limited ... a completed clinical study of its NuQ ® blood-based ... the online issue of Clinical Epigenetics , the official ... conducted in collaboration with Lund University, ... Andersson , MD, PhD, Professor of Surgery and Vice-Dean, Faculty ...
(Date:10/12/2015)... Seattle WA (PRWEB) , ... October 12, 2015 , ... ... for the treatment of retinal diseases that can safely and chronically be administered as ... Global Health Impact Forum co-hosted by The Cleveland Clinic and taking place October 25th ...
Breaking Biology Technology: