Russian scientists have now discovered after examining the bones from “mammoth cemeteries” that these terrestrial mammals (among the largest on earth) died as a result of environmental factors; namely, geological and ecological changes that precipitated the depletion of necessary nutrients and minerals in soil and food, which in turn caused severe bone disease. The mammoth bones that were examined carried traces of osteoporosis, osteomalacia (bone softening) and osteochondrosis.
The mammoth was certainly hunted for its meat, as were bison and other hoofed animals. Spear tips embedded in between mammoth ribs found in two fossils in the United States prove the point beyond all reasonable doubt. As herbivorous animals, mammoths needed large amounts of minerals to survive and they compensated for the lack of such by eating certain kinds of clay known as alkali soils, at “animal pastures.” The need to eat these clays was particularly prevalent during mating season and pregnancy. (Talk about cravings!)
Due to tectonic forces, alkali soils were transformed into soils of an acid nature, which were lacking in nutrients. Grass which was a mammoth staple, lacked necessary minerals and this progressive decrease in proper nutrition caused various pathological processes in bones, some so painful that the poor animals couldn’t even move, much less forage for food (and more likely become someone else’s food).
Although the exact truth may never be known, Russian scientists have at least clarified much of the mystery surrounding the disappearance of mammoths.
What could be next?
I hear saber-tooth tigers may well be on the horizon.