Latest in Gear

Image credit:

'Resurrected' mammoth DNA helps explain why the species went extinct

Genetic defects might have played a part.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
February 8, 2020
8 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share

Sponsored Links

Aunt_Spray via Getty Images

Reviving the woolly mammoth is still a tall order. However, technology might be far enough along to help explain why the elephant precursor went extinct in the first place. Scientists have 'resurrected' genes from a population of mammoths that survived on a Siberian island until around 4,000 years ago to see what might have contributed to this relic herd dying out. After resurrecting a mammoth's genes through cells in culture, they compared it against both other mammoths and Asian elephants to look for problematic mutations based on known genetic behavior.

As it turns out, at least one of the island's mammoths had a string of genetic defects. There were issues with male fertility, neurological development, insulin signalling and even the ability to smell flowers. This suggests the mammoths might have been hurt by their small population size (300 to 500) and isolation from the Siberian mainland, reducing their long-term chances of survival.

This doesn't provide a full explanation for why woolly mammoths finally died out. Most of them (along with other species) were wiped out by a changing climate that eliminated the tundra they needed to survive. It paints a clearer picture, though, and suggests technology could help solve other prehistoric mysteries.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
8 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share

Popular on Engadget

The redesigned Tesla Model S interior swaps in a steering yoke

The redesigned Tesla Model S interior swaps in a steering yoke

View
NASA's asteroid-sampling OSIRIS-REx probe will head back to Earth in May

NASA's asteroid-sampling OSIRIS-REx probe will head back to Earth in May

View
Facebook predicts ‘uncertainty' in 2021, blames upcoming iOS 14 update

Facebook predicts ‘uncertainty' in 2021, blames upcoming iOS 14 update

View
Apple reports $111 billion in quarterly revenue, shattering previous record

Apple reports $111 billion in quarterly revenue, shattering previous record

View
iOS 14.4 rolls out with Bluetooth audio monitoring

iOS 14.4 rolls out with Bluetooth audio monitoring

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr