The isotopic analysis of the different layers of the tusks of a mammoth has made it possible to determine the kilometers that a specimen of this species traveled throughout its entire life about 17,100 years ago.
The researchers came to the conclusion that the animal lived for approximately 28 years during the last ice age and that during those almost three decades it traveled a distance equivalent to “going around the planet almost twice,” according to communicates the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. To find out, the international team in charge of the study sampled a 1.7 meter long tusk in 400,000 fragments and subjected them to microscopic analysis.
The proportions of isotopes of the elements strontium and oxygen that could be traced in the annual rings of the tusk, similar to those of the trees, were combined with the maps that predicted the variations of these same isotopes in different places of Alaska.
Before this study, paleontologists knew little about the life, diet and movements of mammoths, and about this particular specimen, it was only known that it died in the northern part of Alaska, beyond the polar circle. However, the modeling that these scientists have carried out offers the first evidence that these pachyderms they could walk so much.
Matthew Wooller, paleoclimatologist and lead author of the paper, published in Science this August 13, affirms that they are not clear if the mammoth migrated according to the seasons, but they do covered great distances. “He visited many parts of Alaska at some point in his life, which is pretty amazing when you think about how big that area is.”
The team found in the tusk an unbeatable chronological record of the life of this extinct species. “From the moment they are born until the day they die, they have a diary and it’s written on their fangss “, synthesized the paleontologist Patrick Druckenmiller, director of the University Museum of the North, in whose collection this specimen is found.” Mother nature does not usually offer such convenient and durable records of the life of an individual, “he added.
The DNA preserved in the tusk tissues provided additional data to this analysis and allowed the animal to be identified as a male related to the last group of its species that lived in mainland Alaska.
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