Woolly rhinos: the cause of extinction lies in ancient genomes

Woolly rhinos: the cause of extinction lies in ancient genomes

Once upon a time there was a unique species of animals on our planet, it was a woolly rhino. But they gradually disappeared from the face of the Earth. For a long time, the scientists believed that the reason lies in the excessive hunting of these animals. But more recently, the science has received an evidence for another hypothesis of the disappearance of the woolly rhinos.

That species was exterminated by powerful climatic changes, which were reflected in the genome of the ancient creatures. The disappearance of species such as mammoth, cave lion, woolly rhinoceroses - science has often associated with the revitalization of ancient man at the end of the first ice age.

Man began to explore the new territories, exterminating animals. But a detailed study of the genomes of woolly rhino remains revealed another reason for their disappearance: the influence of climate. The scientists succeeded in sequencing the DNA of the remains of 14 animals. Based on the analysis, they found that the woolly rhino population remained stable and diverse as long as it spread in Siberia. And after a few thousand years, the population disappeared completely.

The analysis showed that the animals adapted to the cold could not withstand the effects of the temperatures. Love Dalen, who is a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Center for Paleogenetics at Stockholm University, believes that there is a direct link between the distribution of the woolly rhinos and humans in northeastern Siberia about 14-15 thousand years ago. But that interaction could not be the cause of the extinction of animals.

Recently, there have been several discoveries of much older human habitats, the most famous of which is about thirty thousand years old, and the number of rhinos there did not decline during that period of time. On the contrary, with the advent of humans, the number of animals increased.

A genome analysis provided insight into past events and a clearer assessment of the state of the species, and helped to assess populations of the woolly rhinoceroses tens of thousands of years before their extinction. The researchers found that after an increase of the population at the beginning of the cold period about 29 thousand years ago, the number of woolly rhinoceros remained constant, but the number of juveniles decreased.

Certain gene mutations were identified that helped animals to adapt to warmth and cold, it corresponds to the same mutation that mammoths have. However, due to the sharp warming, rhinos were unable to adapt to the climate and gradually disappeared.