Woolly mammoths are one of those ancient creatures scientifically proven to have walked the Earth, but we can only imagine in picture books. Recently, researchers have made headway into the extinction of this species, collecting remains from the late Pleistocene age and about the North Sea. Mammals, including long-necked giraffes almost always have seven neck vertebrae, under examination scientists noted a cervical rib on the mammoth remains, which in modern day animals is attributed to inbreeding and harsh environmental conditions during the gestation period.
"We knew these were just about the last mammoths living there, so we suspected something was happening. Our work now shows that there was indeed a problem in this population," said Jelle Reume. It was actually observed at a frequency 10 times higher, 33% versus 3.3.% in modern day elephants. The cervical rib is harmless to its host, however, as previously mentioned, is an indicator of environmental disturbances during embryonic development , but also stillbirths. The cervical rib is strongly associated with congenital abnormalities, negatively impacting the lifespan of an individual. In humans, approximately 90% of those possessing a cervical rib doe before reaching reproductive age, these rates are again attributed to major congenital abnormalities. For example, noting the number of cervical rib in humans, an incidence higher than 1% was only found in hospitals or isolated populations, 25% in children with leukemia, brain tumors, and neuroblastomas
In this study a total of 16 cervical vertebrates were looked at, 6 C6 and 10 C7 vertebrates, in comparison with 28 specimens of extant elephants. When identifying articulations for cervical ribs on the vertebrae, the following characteristics are of note: smooth, polished looking surface, visibly smoother than surround surface, surface has no vascular or nervous foramina. Once identified, size is an important characteristic as well, and those of the woolly mammoth were visibly larger than those found on elephants, and in mice was found to be negatively correlated with fitness. Low fitness, harsh conditions during a period of great climate changes, in an unstable and changing ecosystem acting on a vulnerable organism, in this case the woolly mammoth seems like the perfect recipe for eventual extinction
Posted by Thomas Flores (B)