In the footsteps of a woolly mammoth, 17,000 years ago

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Tuesday, May 28, 2024

In the footsteps of a woolly mammoth, 17,000 years ago
Mat Wooller, director of the Alaska Stable Isotope Facility, kneels among a collection of mammoth tusks at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. UAF photo by JR Ancheta.

by Lucie Aubourg

WASHINGTON (AFP).- Walking the equivalent of twice around the world during a life lasting 28 years, one wooly mammoth whose steps have been traced by researchers has proven the huge beast was a long-distance wanderer.

The findings, published Thursday in the prestigious journal Science, could shed light on theories about why the mammoth, whose teeth were bigger than the human fist, became extinct.

"In all popular culture -- for example if you watch (the cartoon) 'Ice Age' -- there are always mammoths who move around a lot," said Clement Bataille, assistant professor at the University of Ottawa and one of the lead authors of the study.

But there is no clear reason why mammoths should have trekked great distances "because it is such an enormous animal that moving around uses a lot of energy," he told AFP.

The researchers were amazed by the results: the mammoth they studied probably walked around 70,000 kilometers (43,500 miles), and did not stay just on the plains of Alaska as they expected.

"We see that it traveled throughout Alaska, so an immense territory," said Bataille. "It was really a surprise."

Readings on a tusk

For their study, the researchers selected the tusks of a male woolly mammoth who lived at the end of the last ice age.

The animal -- named "Kik" after a local river -- lived relatively close to the time of the extinction of the species, around 13,000 years ago.

One of the two tusks was cut in half to take readings of strontium isotope ratios.

Strontium is a chemical element similar to limestone and is present in soil. It is transmitted to vegetation and, when eaten, is deposited in bones, teeth... or tusks.

The tusks grow throughout a mammal's life, with the tip reflecting the first years of life, and the base representing the final years.

Isotope ratios are different depending on geology, and Bataille developed an isotopic map of the region.

By comparing it with the data from the tusks, it was possible to track when and where the mammoth had been.

At the time, glaciers covered all of the Brooks Range of mountains in the north and the Alaska Range in the south, with the plain of the Yukon River in the center.

The animal returned regularly to some areas, where it could stay for several years. But his movements also changed greatly depending on his age, before he eventually died of hunger.

During the first two years of his life, researchers were even able to observe signs of breastfeeding.

"What was really surprising was that after the teenage years, the isotopic variations start to be much more important," said Bataille.

The mammoth has "three or four times in its life, made an immense journey of 500, 600 even 700 kilometers, in a few months."

Scientists say the male may have been solitary, and moving from herd to herd to reproduce. Or he could have been facing a drought or a harsh winter, forcing him to seek a new area where food was more plentiful.

Lessons for today?

Whether for genetic diversity, or due to scarce resources, it is "clear that this species needed an extremely large area" to live," said Bataille.

But, at the time of the transition from the ice age to the interglacial period -- when they were extinct -- "the area shrank because more forests grew" and "humans put quite a lot of pressure on southern Alaska, where mammoths probably moved much less."

Understanding factors that led to the disappearance of mammoths may help protect other threatened megafauna species, such as caribou or elephants.

With today's climate changing, and humans often restricting big species to parks and reserves, Bataille said, "do we want our children 1,000 years from now to view elephants the same way we view mammoths today?"

© Agence France-Presse

Today's News

August 15, 2021

Teaching a new inclusiveness at The School

Teens cash in on the NFT art boom

A gallery sells Hunter Bidens. The White House says it won't know who's buying.

In the footsteps of a woolly mammoth, 17,000 years ago

Gerald Peters Contemporary opens a solo exhibition of work by Patrick Dean Hubbell

Large-scale exhibition focuses on the handling of industrial themes in painting and photography

Scientists name new frog-legged beetle fossil for Sir David Attenborough

Bárbara Rodríguez Muñoz joins the Centro Botín team as the new Director of Exhibitions and the Collection

Groundbreaking exhibition at Royal Ontario Museum explores alternative history of photography

Pace Gallery opens an exhibition of works by JoAnn Verburg

Phillips to present 'What the Fork?' by Slimesunday

Exhibition features new works by Tegan Brozyna Roberts, Simona Prives and Viviane Rombaldi Seppey

'Earthbound: Contemporary Landscape from the Roberts Institute of Art' opens at Sheffield Museums

Joburg Contemporary Art Foundation explores liminal identities of seminal female artists in the Global South

Now on view: Kinke Kooi's anthropomorphic gardens at Adams and Ollman

Indonesia's Edwin wins Locarno film festival

Contemporary Istanbul moves to historic new location

Boca Raton Center for Arts & Innovation receives first capital donation of $5 million from the Stein Family

Performa announces Rashid Johnson as board chair, and Todd Bishop as treasurer

Artists launch the Aspen Space Station

212 Photography Istanbul to spread the festival spirit throughout the city 1-11 October 2021

The Arts Society to host over 400 events accross the UK to bring communities together

Jan Lisiecki, piano's Doogie Howser, comes of age with Chopin

Janice Mirikitani, poet and crusader for people in need, dies at 80

The Truth Behind the Rise of Influencer Culture!

11 Secrets For A Perfect Hiking Trip

How to Get a Cheap Divorce in New Jersey

How to Get a Cheap Divorce in Washington?

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful