Woolly Mammoth Hybrid With Columbian Mammoth Revealed By Scientists

By on Jun 1, 2011 in Animals, Archaelogy, North America, Science, World Comments
Woolly Mammoth interbreds Columbian Mammoths
Woolly Mammoths Hybrids With Columbian Mammoths
Image Credit: Live Science

Canadian scientists discovered that woolly mammoth have interbred with larger and different species of elephant, according to a May 31 published report at Genome Biology.

Woolly mammoth, scientifically known as Mammuthus primigenius, are giant elephants that disappeared in Siberia about 10,000 years ago. Their preferred habitat are cold places. The only species who lived until 3,700 years ago were the dwarf mammoths in the Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean.

Columbian mammoth, known as Mammuthus columbi, are larger species than Woolly mammoth. Male Columbians are one-and-a-half to two times larger than woolly males. They preferred to lived in the area of Southern and Central North America.

According to evolutionary geneticist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, Hendrik Poinar said that they “are talking about two very physically different species here.” He added that “roughly 1 million years of separation between the two, with the Columbian mammoth likely derived from an early migration into North America approximately 1.5 million years ago, and their woolly counterparts emigrating to North America some 400,000 years ago.”

By analyzing the DNA taken from tusks, bone and teeth of two 11,000-year-old fossil specimens, Poinar‘s team was able learn the evolution of Columbian mammoth. They discovered that the mitochondrial genome of the Columbian mammoths cannot be easily distinguished from a northern woolly.

Jacob Enk, McMaster Ancient DNA Center graduate student said that “we may be looking at a genetic hybrid.”

The migration of woolly mammoths during a change in climate led them to get into contact with the Columbian mammoths.

Poinar explained that “living African elephant species hybridize where their ranges overlap, with the bigger species out-competing the smaller for mates.” He added that these species were “perfectly fertile” during offspring.

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