Mystery of Wooly Mammoth extinction may finally be solved thanks to 14,000-year-old tusk unlocking ‘key secret’


RESEARCHERS have uncovered the tusk of a wooly Mammoth from 14,000 years ago in an unusual location.

Somehow, the tusk of a 20-year-old female mammoth was found at a campsite in Swan Point, Alaska.


D79R9E Wooly MammothCredit: Alamy

It was unclear how the tusk ended up there – i.e. was the mammoth hunted there, or was the tusk brought there by humans?

However, thanks to a new study published in the journal Science Advances, scientists may finally solve the mystery of the tusk.

By looking at isotypes in the specimen’s bones, researchers can paint a better picture of how mammoths lived and died.

“She was a young adult in the prime of life,” explains one of the study’s authors and University of Alaska Fairbanks paleoecologist Matthew Wooller.

“Her isotopes showed she was not malnourished and that she died in the same season as the seasonal hunting camp at Swan Point where her tusk was found.”

Isotopes are distinct nuclear species of the same chemical element that scientists can analyze for further information.

After looking at the mammoth’s isotopes, scientists revealed that she originated from the Yukon region in Canada.

At some point, the mammoth migrated 621 miles in three years to Alaska.

The area featured archeological sites from 20,000 years ago that belonged to some of the first human migrants from Eurasia.

“The cooccurrence of both human and mammoth hotspot areas on the Beringian landscape is probably not coincidental,” the researchers said.

“It more likely demonstrates people’s purposeful and strategic intent to map their behavior onto that of a mobile but highly visible and predictable megafaunal resource.”

The study suggests that Early Alaskans could have structured their settlements partly based on mammoth prevalence.

This is due to potentially using mammoths for raw materials and likely food.

Researchers also shared some theories for the mammoth extinction, which could have been impacted by human interaction.

“The ~1000-year period of overlap between people and mammoths in Alaska highlights the potential for interaction, including hunting, which would have affected the dynamics of mammoth extinction, a key aspect of the broader debate on the causes of megafaunal extinctions in the Americas,” the study reads.

“Evidence indicates that human roles in other megafaunal extinctions in the Americas may have been substantial.”