Why mammoths became extinct - find out here

Help the development of the site, sharing the article with friends!

The mammoth, a large mastodon that lived during the ice age, is probably one of the most popular and charismatic animals that have become extinct. Perhaps that is why today there is a team of Harvard researchers who are trying, by crossing their DNA with that of Asian elephants, to bring this species back to life. But what is it that led this spice to extinction? For decades it was taken for granted that human hunting was the cause of its disappearance, however, now we can say that it was not the main one.

You want to know why mammoths became extinct? In the following Green Ecologist article we will explain it to you.

Why the mammoths became extinct

Until relatively recently, humans were blamed for the disappearance of mammoths, basically due to the intensive hunting of these animals. However, in recent years and, above all, once the DNA of this extinct animal could be deciphered, other factors have been found that were much more important in the disappearance of mammoths:

Climate change

The results of the latest studies on the extinction of mammoths reveal that the climate change was the main cause of the disappearance of this species. These changes in the climate caused other changes in the vegetation. The fact is that during the ice age, the cold and dry conditions that existed, as well as the low concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, prevented many trees. This left plenty of space for huge expanses of grass to grow, perfect for large herbivores, such as mammoths, to eat as they pleased. As the climate became more humid and temperate, and as the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased, the trees grew where there used to be grasslands, reducing the amount of food the mammoths eat and consequently reducing the numbers. of specimens.


Until relatively recently it was believed that hunting was the main and almost sole reason why mammoths became extinct. The reality is that, indeed, this may be one of the factors that made the individuals of this species dwindled, but it was neither the only one nor, surely, the main one.

Genetic mutations

We have already explained the importance of climate and vegetation change, and it was precisely this change that caused only a few populations of mammoths that survived in different isolated areas to survive. It was not until 3,700 years ago that the last specimen of this species disappeared from the earth. Is last colony is that of Wrangel Island, located in the Arctic Ocean in an area not far from Siberia and its disappearance has also been widely studied, so that today we can already explain the causes of this latest blow that led to the extinction of the mammoths.

Today we are already capable of sequencing DNA, so that it has been possible to compare the genomes of frozen mammoths that lived on the continent 45,000 years ago, in full splendor of this species, with those of individuals that lived 4,000 years ago in Wrangle Island. The results show that during this period of time this small colony was accumulating mutations in DNA that were harmful. The fact that it was a closed colony and that they could not mate with foreign specimens, caused these mutations to multiply and pass from parents to children, accumulating very quickly. Ultimately, these genetic mutations were to blame for the disappearance of the mammoth on our planet.

Where the mammoths lived

The era of the mammoths was during the Pliocene and Pleistocene, a time during which the continents were already located in much the same way as they are today. The climate during that time was that of the Ice Age, with 30% of the earth's surface covered in snow. That was precisely the perfect habitat for the mammoth. The dryness and coldness made the deserts much more extensive and the soil more arid, which made it impossible for forests to grow in much of the world. In contrast, there was great plains with grass, savannas that encompassed much of the Eurasian continent.

It is precisely there where most of the mammoths lived, in the area between Eastern Europe, Alaska, Siberia and Yukon, in present-day Canada. In fact, this region received the name of the steppe of the mammoth. However, you may be wondering how it is possible that these large mastodons could only feed on grass, with the ground covered with snow. The reality is that the vegetation at that time was different from what we know today. The rigidity of the climate meant that the plants had to conserve a lot of carbohydrates and fibers, which made them highly nutritious, thus being perfect for the mammoth's diet.

When did the mammoths live

We have said that the great age of the mammoths was between the Pleistocene and Pliocene, but what does that mean? Here we explain chronologically when did the mammoths live:

  • Does 6 million years: in Africa what will be the ancestors of the mammoth evolve.
  • Does 3 million years: these ancestors move to North Africa, Asia and Europe.
  • Does 1.7 million years: Steppe mammoths appear in China and spread throughout the hemisphere.
  • Does 700,000 years: Woolly mammoths appear in Siberia, capable of living in freezing climates.
  • Does 200,000 years: European steppe mammoths become extinct.
  • Does 14,000 years: After the glaciation, the evolution of mammoths is stopped.
  • Does 10,000 years: the last colonies of continental mammoths become extinct
  • Does 4,000 years: the species is extinct with the last specimens from the island of Wrangle.

If you want to read more articles similar to Why the mammoths became extinct, we recommend that you enter our category of Extinct Animals.

You will help the development of the site, sharing the page with your friends
This page in other languages: