Sunday, January 29, 2012

Did Mammoths Survive the Great Extinction 12,000 Years Ago?

It seems that some of them did, although they were somewhat smaller than their older cousins. There is incontrovertible evidence that at least a few mammoths were still living long after the pyramids and Stonehenge had been built.
In 1993, mammoth skeletons were discovered on Wrangel Island, which is located about 100 miles north of Siberia. The bones were dated to between 3700 and 7000 years ago, long after mammoths were believed to have gone extinct. Trapped on their island home with limited food resources, the mammoths responded to their environment by growing smaller. They stood only about six feet tall at the shoulder.
Wrangel Island is not the only place where dwarf mammoths have been discovered. The other location is on Santa Rosa Island, one of the Channel Islands located off the southern California Coast near Santa Barbara. Like the miniature mammoths of Wrangel Island, the Santa Rosa mammoths were also about six feet tall. But the youngest pygmy elephants of Santa Rosa to be dated by radiocarbon techniques proved to be around 12,840 years old, meaning that they, at least, did not survive the Great Extinction.
There are also a few more tantalizing stories that, if true, could mean that at least a few mammoths survived until at least 100 years ago. According to one tale, a Russian hunter traveling in the great Siberian forest, followed a trail of immense tracks, piles of dung and broken trees. He caught up with the creatures after several days. He said they were a pair of massive elephants covered with hair and sporting massive tusks.
Stories also persist in the Near East and parts of China about hunters and herders spotting groups of strange animals that may be mammoths. In some of the stories, the beasts are described as being about the size of those found on the Wrangel and Santa Rosa islands.
Both Eskimos and North American tribes have legends that describe mammoths, although these stories may have been handed down for thousands of years. But in at least a few cases, the sightings seem to have taken place within living memory.
Are there still a few mammoths surviving in remote corners of the world? Species are constantly being rediscovered that were once thought to have gone extinct. Perhaps the idea that mammoths may have survived is not really as far-fetched as it seems.

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