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Woolly-mammoth gene study changes extinction theory
Date:6/11/2008

y, Russia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The team includes experts in the fields of genome evolution, ancient DNA, and mammoth paleontology, as well as curators from various natural-history museums.

Another important finding for understanding the extinction processes is that the individuals in each of the two woolly-mammoth groups were related very closely to one another. "This low genetic divergence is surprising because the woolly mammoth had an extraordinarily wide range: from Western Europe, to the Bering Strait in Siberia, to Northern America," Miller said. "The low genetic divergence of mammoth, which we discovered, may have degraded the biological fitness of these animals in a time of changing environments and other challenges."

Our study suggests a genetic divergence of the two woolly-mammoth groups more than 1-million years ago, which is one quarter the genetic distance that separates Indian and African elephants and woolly mammoths," Miller said. The research indicates that the diversity of the two woolly-mammoth populations was as low centuries ago as it is now in the very small populations of Asian elephants living in southern India. "The low genetic divergence of the elephants in southern Indian has been suggested as contributing to the problems of maintaining this group as a thriving population," Schuster said. Intriguingly, the mitochondrial genomes revealed by the researchers are several times more complete than those known for the modern Indian and African Elephants combined.

Whereas studies before this research had analyzed only short segments of the DNA of extinct species, this new study generated and compared 18 complete genomes of the extinct woolly mammoth using mitochondrial DNA, an important material for studying ancient genes. This achievement is based on an earlier discovery of the team led by Miller, Schuster, and co-author Thomas Gilbert, which was published last ye
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Contact: Barbara K. Kennedy
science@psu.edu
814-863-4682
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert  

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