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Disappearing Flower Made the Plant Loving Woolly Mammoth Extinct

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You can add woolly mammoths to the list of super star vegans! Joseph Craine, an ecosystem ecologist at Kansas State University, and a group of researchers examining Arctic life at the time of the Woolly Mammoth, discovered that the environment was not basically barren with the exception of a few vast stretches of grass, as previously thought. Frozen pollen, some samples up to a whopping 50,000 years old, acted as a guide for the researchers, allowing them to come to these conclusions.

Evidence of a variety of plants spread throughout the frozen earth were found, including wildflowers. Sunflowers, mums and relatives of carnations and honeysuckles dotted the Arctic earth, and this abundance of flowers fed the creatures that roamed it. Stomach analysis of frozen remains confirmed these findings, and the plants most likely played a critical role in providing the large animals with enough nutrition and protein.

An evolutionary biologist at UC Berkeley, Eline Lorenzen, who was part of the project, said, “It’s always been believed that the Arctic steppe was dominated by grasses and grass-like plants, and we find that’s not the case at all.” Just 20 percent of the samples studied were made up of grasses. The magnificent animals met their unfortunate end when ice sheets took over the region 20,000 years ago. The ending of the last ice age resulted in taller foliage crowding out the woolly mammoth’s flowery food sources.


Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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