Did grass wipe out the Woolly Mammoth?

A new study carried out by Eske Willerslev and his his team at the University of Copenhagen, have proposed a new reason as to why the Woolly Mammoth that roamed the earth for 300,000 years, finally died out a few thousand years ago. The reason: grass.

Studies from the 50,000 year old soil of areas favourable to this and other big Pleistocene animals have found traces of forbs – a flowering plant – that was thrived up until 10,000 years when the last Ice Age ended. This combined with samples taken from frozen mammoths, bison and horse where the forbs were also found, has led Willerslev to believe this was the main food source of some Pleistocene mammals, especially the mammoth.


The forbs flourished in areas such as meadows and tundra is places like Canada, Alaska, Yukon and Siberia – where Ice Age animals were prevalent. When the last Ice Age ended, wetter conditions proceeded, causing these plants to eventually fizzle out and new grasslands to dominate the plains.

The team believe that because of this, mammoths couldn’t get as much sustenance as before, which eventually led to their demise – along with warmer conditions and humans of course, but the grasslands were also a factor..

This path of reasoning hasn’t formulated before because scientists previously only study prehistoric pollen, and not the soil.

Even though the Woolly Mammoth has died off, the “de-extinctionists” still want to bring these majestic animals back. Read my thoughts about this whole discussion: Is bringing back extinct species playing god?

Source: National Geographic: Woolly Mammoths wiped out by grass invasion?

Heritage Daily: Research gives insight into diet of large ancient mammals


One thought on “Did grass wipe out the Woolly Mammoth?

  1. Pingback: The weekly archaeology roundup 14/2/2014 |

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