According to a research article published in the journal, Genome Biology and Evolution, the world’s last woolly mammoths, sequestered on an Arctic Ocean island outpost, suffered from serious genetic defects caused by generations of inbreeding. These genetic defects may have hampered traits such as their sense of smell and male fertility in the doomed population.
The ancient creatures went extinct roughly 10,000 years ago amid a warming climate and widespread human hunting. However, isolated populations survived for thousands of years even after that. One of the surviving populations, which disappeared nearly 4,000 years ago, lived on St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea and Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean.
The genome of these last mammoths that were found on the Wrangel Island off the Siberia’s coast showed that the population was riddled with deleterious mutation, scientists on Friday announced. The experts analysed genes from this individual mammoth in a lab to find clues about the demise of this illustrious Ice Age Species.
The researchers then compared the Wrangel island mammoth DNA to that of two older mammoths as well as three Asian elephants. They found a genetic difference which pointed towards genetic mutations in the Wrangel Island Mammoth.
Following this discovery, they synthesized those genes in the lab to further test their functionality. As a result, they discovered problems in the genes which were responsible for sperm production, smell, neurological development, and impaired insulin functioning.
Evolutionary biologist Vincent Lynch of the University at Buffalo in New York said that they used those specifically manufactured genes to test whether they were functional or not and found that they were not. He added that mutations happen all the time but the population that lived on Wrangel was very small and inbred. This led to an accumulation of mutations that are normally purged by evolution.
Woolly mammoths which first appeared 7,00,000 years ago in Siberia and possessed long brown fur and immense tusks.
(With Agency Inputs)