The Last Woolly Mammoths Died Of Thirst: Will History Repeat Itself?

According to the Daily Mail, the last living family of the ancient woolly mammoths on the planet died of thirst around 5,600 years ago. Researchers have determined ancient woolly mammoths were able to survive roughly 5,000 years longer than mammoths on the mainland. However, the remaining few eventually died of thirst after being trapped on a small Alaskan Island. Researchers believe the rising sea levels and dwindling freshwater supply is ultimately what caused the ancient woolly mammoth to go extinct.

BBC News reports scientists believe the warming climates caused the lakes to become shallower, which resulted in the woolly mammoths’ inability to quench their thirst. The woolly mammoths known to live in other parts of the world died out about 10,500 years ago. Scientists believe the environmental changes and humans hunting them down ultimately led to their extinction.

[Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images]

According to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a family of woolly mammoths living on St. Paul Island, located in the Bering Sea, were able to cling onto life for roughly 5,000 years longer than the mammoths on the rest of the planet.

Following the Ice Age, the earth started to warm up. This caused the island the mammoths caused home to shrink significantly in size. This, in turn, caused some lakes to be lost to the sea. This also caused some of the remaining water sources to be flooded with salt water. Dying of thirst, the ancient woolly mammoths were forced to share what few watering holes remained. Unfortunately, this only made the problem worse for this fur-covered giants.

Lead author Russell Graham, from Pennsylvania State University, explained how the family of woolly mammoths on this small island ultimately led to their own demise.

“They were milling around, which would destroy the vegetation — we see this with modern elephants. And this allows for the erosion of sediments to go into the lake, which is creating less and less fresh water. The mammoths were contributing to their own demise.”

According to the professor and author, the modern day elephant requires between 70 and 200 liters of water every single day.

“We assume mammoths did the same thing. It wouldn’t have taken long if the water hole had dried up. If it had only dried up for a month, it could have been fatal.”

Researchers believe, with the way climate is changing today, both humans and animals on small islands could experience the very same problem this family of woolly mammoths experienced. If the climates continue to shift, those living on small islands could die of thirst the same way these mammoths did.

According to Love Dalen, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, the ancient woolly mammoths have become the most understood creatures to go extinct in history. Scientists and researchers have been able to uncover more and learn more about these creatures than they’ve been able to do about any other creature on the planet.

“In a broader perspective, this study highlights that small populations are very sensitive to changes in the environment.”

Scientists and researchers, however, believe the findings in this study have determined so much more than just when woolly mammoths went extinct. The study has revealed how vulnerable both people and animals living on a small island would be if extreme changes to the climate and/or the environment were to occur.

What do you think about learning the very last woolly mammoths on the planet died of thirst? Do you think there is a chance of history repeat itself? Are the people and animals living on small islands at risk of dying of thirst the same way the mammoths did? Experts seem to think the study and findings confirm there is a risk, however, small it may be.

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