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Mammoth Elephants Were Swift in Adapting to Chilly Climate, Suggests Study

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Warren Henry
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Mammoth ancestors quickly adapted to the cold climate.

He had all the characteristics necessary for life in a harsh cold climate: thick hair, a thick layer of fat, small ears and other distinguishing features.

Russian and foreign paleontologists have studied the DNA structure of the oldest mammoths on Earth and found that the ancestors of giant elephants during the ice age, 600-700 thousand years ago, had thick hair, a thick layer of fat and small ears. The scientists said in the journal Current Biology that this indicates that these mammals are rapidly adapting to cold climates.

The press service of the journal quotes Professor Love Dalen of Stockholm University: “The mammoth genome, discovered on the Chukchi Peninsula in northeastern Russia and named (Chukuksha), made it possible to isolate a group of genes that changed their structure compared to other genes as their ancestors evolved. We found that during the lifetime of the Chukchi, the ancient mammoths had 91.7% of the mutations that became characteristic of their later descendants.”

The mammoth elephant is reported to have been one of the largest megafauna living in Eurasia and North America during the last ice age. Their numbers were very large only 50,000 years ago, but they quickly disappeared about 15-20,000 years ago, when the glaciers began to retreat. The exact reasons for their disappearance are still being discussed by scientists.

Researchers are now trying to answer this question by studying the fossil DNA of ancient mammoths. Two years ago, a group of scientists led by Professor Dalin managed to decipher the oldest DNA fragments of (Chukot), (Krestov) and Adyghe mammoths buried in permafrost 600-700 thousand years ago.

Professor Dalin and his colleagues, including Russian paleontologists from Moscow, Magadan and St. Petersburg, used these findings to study the genetic history of mammoth evolution. To do this, scientists compared clusters of small mutations found in the genome of a well-preserved mammoth (Chukotchi) and 20 other ancient mammoths that lived in Siberia 50–100,000 years ago, on the one hand, and 30 African and Asian ones. elephants on the other hand.

Scientists disassembled more than 58 million different variants in the structure of the genomes of all studied elephant mammals, which made it possible to identify a group of about 3,000 genes, the structure of which is very different between mammoths and modern elephants. Most of all, these changes affected 32 DNA regions associated with metabolism, hair growth, immunity, adipose tissue, sensitivity to cold and body structure.

In addition, about 91.7% of the mutations in these DNA regions in the mammoth genome are also present in the reconstructed (Chukuchinsky) mammoth genome. This means that the first mammoths on Earth had almost all the key traits needed for life in cold climates, including thick fur, thick fat, small ears, and other distinctive features.

Source: TASS

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