Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Extinct Animal of the day: Mammoth

Characters in The Sixth Event travel through time--and the first thing they see that convinces them of that fact is the Woolly Mammoth.

Mammoths roamed during the ice age, and evolved about six million years ago when they diverged from their closest (still living) cousin, the Asian elephant. Mammoths only went extinct about ten thousand years ago, during the end of the last ice age, when most of the megafauna (aka large animals) in North America and Europe went extinct. The last continent where megafauna can be found is Africa--think giraffes, rhinos and hippos.

We definitely hunted mammoth as we spread across Europe and North America, and some researchers think human overhunting was the reason mammoths went extinct. Others say that it was the warming accompanying the end of the ice age that sounded the mammoth's death knell. Either way, mammoths were a magnificent animal, one of the largest land mammals in history, and are emblematic of the period of prehistory just before humans rose to power.

There is, strangely, hope for mammoths, in a way. We've sequenced the entire mammoth genome. If our technology advances enough, cloning a mammoth is not outside the realm of possibility.

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