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Male Mammoths

November 7, 2017

Mammoths that left remains in Siberia were overwhelmingly male. Scientists want to know why.

Transcript

Mammoth tusk on Wrangel Island.Patrícia Pečnerová

Mammoth tusk on Wrangel Island. (Patrícia Pečnerová)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

A mammoth mystery. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Researchers analyzing the DNA of extinct Siberian mammoths have stumbled upon a mystery:

PATRÍCIA PEČNEROVÁ (Stockholm University):

We studied 98 samples and we found out that more than ⅔ of them were males.  

HIRSHON:

Stockholm University evolutionary biologist Patrícia Pečnerová and her colleagues doubt the sex ratios were really so skewed. Instead, they write in Current Biology that mammoth social groups likely resembled those of modern day elephants – with older females providing vital leadership. But young males disperse away from the herd, losing its protection.

PEČNEROVÁ:

They don’t have the knowledge provided by the more high-ranked and more experienced females.

HIRSHON:

A lack of practical experience could have made lone male mammoths more prone to falling into crevasses and sinkholes, to one day be discovered by paleontologists. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard

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