Mammoth tusks which might be over 100,000 years previous are “extremely rare,” Mr. Mol added, and finding out one might give scientists new insights in regards to the Lower Paleolithic, a poorly understood period of Earth’s historical past.
Scientists know that round 200,000 years in the past Earth was experiencing a glacial interval and our ancestors had been migrating out of Africa. But they don’t know precisely how the planet’s altering local weather affected mammoths and different massive animals throughout this time. What can be unclear is how arrival to North America altered the genetic variety of mammoths.
“We don’t really know much of anything about what was happening during that time period,” Dr. Fisher mentioned. “We don’t have access to a lot of specimens from this time period and that’s due in large part to the fact that getting access to sediments of this age is difficult.”
Mammoths, the furry, small-eared kin of recent elephants, first appeared round 5 million years in the past and have become extinct round 4,000 years in the past. The first mammoths got here out of Africa and unfold north, evolving into distinct species alongside the way in which, till they’d colonized a lot of the Northern Hemisphere.
The earliest mammoths to enterprise into North America had been often known as Krestovka or steppe mammoths. These mammoths got here from Eurasia 1.5 million years in the past and did so by marching throughout the Bering Strait, which wasn’t lined by water like it’s in the present day. Hundreds of 1000’s of years later, one other species of mammoth, the woolly mammoth, additionally crossed the Bering Strait and joined their cousins in North America. The two hybridized to supply the Columbian mammoth, however nobody is aware of precisely when. A current examine estimated that the hybridization occasion occurred at the very least 420,000 years in the past, however extra analysis is required to verify this.
If the tusk is as previous as scientists suspect, it “could really help clarify the timing of this hybridization event,” mentioned Pete Heintzman, an affiliate professor on the Arctic University Museum of Norway who research the DNA of mammoths and different ice age creatures.
Although publicity to saltwater might be harmful to organic tissue, the deep sea might be very best for DNA preservation.