Ancient history: Real reason woolly rhinos were wiped off face of Earth

We will use your email address only for sending you newsletters. Please see our Privacy Notice for details of your data protection rights.

By analysing their genetic diversity, scientists have been able to finally estimate changes in the population sizes of woolly rhinos over the time. The new research has enabled those in the field to see how the animal gradually declined through the ages. Its decline was obvious, yet the reason behind its disappearance has long been contended.

Now, the researchers concluded that the woolly rhino was wiped out not by hunting, but by warming temperatures around the world.

About the same size as today’s white rhino, the woolly rhino was covered with an amber, thick coat.

They thrived throughout Europe, northern Asia and Siberia.

Their demise came at around the same time as the death of other prehistoric megafauna such as the woolly mammoth and the cave lion.

Previous hypotheses suggested the woolly rhino declined as a result of over hunting.

This did not, however, match up with recent discoveries and groundbreaking research.

Professor Love Dalén, an evolutionary geneticist at the Centre for Paleogenetics in Stockholm, who led the study explained to BBC Science Focus the discrepancies in previous research.

JUST IN‘Archaeologist’s paradise’ Divers uncovered 4,000-year-old city

He said: “It was initially thought the humans appeared in northeastern Siberia 14,000 to 15,000 years ago, around when the woolly rhinoceros went extinct.

“But recently, there have been several discoveries of much older human occupation sites, the most famous of which is around 30,000 years old.

“So, the decline towards extinction of the woolly rhinoceros doesn’t coincide so much with the first appearance of humans in the region.”


Archaeology horror: 99 million-year-old ‘hell ants’ discovery [REPORT]
Archaeology: Great Wall of China forerunner rewrites Genghis history [INSIGHT]
Egypt archaeology: Mummified child’s face 3D reconstructed 

To find out details of coronavirus in your area, please fill in your postcode below.

Prof Dalén and his team gathered DNA from tissue, bone, and hair samples of 14 individual woolly rhinos.

They then studied and analysed the genetic diversity of the genomes.

This enabled the team to estimate changes in population size.

For example, one line of research went into exploring genetic diversity, as a lack of diversity is naturally reduced by inbreeding within populations.

Any inkling of this in turn suggests smaller population sizes in the wider picture.

The animal’s population spiked around 29,000 years ago.

It managed to remain stable until the data ended at around 18,500 years ago, long after humans arrived in the region.

From this, the team concludes that woolly rhino numbers must have declined between around 18,500 and 14,000 years ago.

This time period overlaps with the Bolling-Allerod warming period.

Lead author, Edana Lord, said: “Although we can’t rule out human involvement, we suggest that the woolly rhinoceros’ extinction was more likely related to climate change.”

The findings have put an end to the age old question for now.

You can read next month’s issue of BBC Science Focus by subscribing here.

Source: Read Full Article