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New study finds last woolly mammoths died of thirst

Mammoths lived on Alaska’s St Paul Island in the Bering Sea until about 5,600 years ago.

ONE OF THE last surviving populations of woolly mammoths was likely driven to extinction by a lack of drinking water.

Mammoths lived on Alaska’s St Paul Island in the Bering Sea until about 5,600 years ago. They never came into contact with humans, who only arrived on the island in 1787.

Researchers from the United States examined evidence of environmental change and found that the mammoths’ demise coincided with declining freshwater resources caused by rising sea levels and drier climate.

In a study published yesterday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, they concluded that mammoths may have contributed to their own demise by congregating around remaining water holes.

The scientists said that the animals gathered around the water holes which destroyed the vegetation there at a faster rate.

“They were milling around, which would destroy the vegetation – we see this with modern elephants,” lead author Professor Russell Graham, from Pennsylvania State University, told The BBC.

“And this allows for the erosion of sediments to go into the lake, which is creating less and less fresh water.

The mammoths were contributing to their own demise.

Graham said that modern elephants require between 70 and 200 litres of water per day.

If it’s assumed that mammoths needed about the same, Graham said that they could have died out very quickly.

It wouldn’t have taken long if the water hole had dried up. If it had only dried up for a month, it could have been fatal,” he said.

Read: 11-year-old goes wandering, stumbles across 30,000-year-old woolly mammoth

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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