Isolated island population went extinct 5,600 years ago when lakes dried up
Thirst drove one of the last populations of woolly mammoths to extinction.
A small group of holdouts on an isolated Alaskan island managed to last about 8,000 years longer than most of their mainland-dwelling brethren. But by about 5,600 years ago, the island’s lakes — the only source of freshwater — became too small to support the mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius), scientists report online the week of August 1 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so conclusive about an extinction before,” says Love Dalén, an evolutionary geneticist at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm who was not involved in the research. The study highlights “how sensitive small populations are and how easily they can become extinct.”
Surprisingly recent woolly mammoth bones had