On the News | Dying woolly mammoths were in ‘genetic meltdown’ @ Nature

On the News @ Nature


Dying woolly mammoths were in ‘genetic meltdown’


“Isolated on an island in the Arctic Ocean, not only were woolly mammoths the last of a dying species but they were also swamped with ‘bad genes’ that are likely to have stripped their sense of smell and saddled them with translucent coats.

Woolly mammoth populations were plentiful 45,000 years ago, but went into genomic freefall as their numbers dwindled around 4,000 years ago. Source: iStock/Getty Images Plus

A study published 2 March in PLOS Genetics gives a rare insight into how genomes change as a species dies out. Towards the end of the last Ice Age, around 11,700 years ago, woolly mammoths ranged through Siberia and into the colder stretches of North America. But by about 4,000 years ago, mainland mammoths had died out and only 300 remained on Wrangel Island off the Siberian coast.

In order to examine this disappearance at the genetic level, biologists Rebekah Rogers and Montgomery Slatkin at the University of California, Berkeley, compared the complete genome of a mainland mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) that lived about 45,000 years ago with that of a Wrangel Island mammoth from about 4,300 years ago. The sequences were made available by Love Dalén at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm.

“As I looked at the sequence data,” says Rogers, “it became very clear that the Wrangel mammoth had an excess of what looked like bad mutations.” (…) READ MORE

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Lurdes Fonseca

Assistant Professor and Researcher at University of Lisbon
Sociologist (PhD), Paleontologist (Researcher in Micropaleontology), Majors in Sociology and Biology, Minor in Geology. Main interests in Paleontology: Microfossils, Molecular fossils, Paleobiology and Paleoecology. (read more about me)