科学美国人:Mammoth Remains Seem Mostly Male

60秒科学节目(SSS)是科学美国人网站的一套广播栏目,英文名称:Scientific American - 60 Second Science,节目内容以科学报道为主,节目仅一分钟的时间,主要对当今的科学技术新发展作以简明、通俗的介绍,对于科学的发展如何影响人们的生活环境、健康状况及科学技术,提供了大量简明易懂的阐释。

Woolly mammoths once ruled the northern reaches of our planet—roaming from Portugal to Siberia, and beyond to Alaska, Canada and the American midwest. And the massive beasts left lots of fossil evidence of their occupation. 

But now scientists have noticed a strange trend among those mammoth remains. The researchers genetically analyzed the fossilized bones, teeth and tusks of 98 individual Siberian mammoths. And they found that 70 percent of the mammoths…were males. 

"So essentially we think this is driven by two different things." Love Dalén, a paleogeneticist and professor at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm. "In general, in wild animals, males tend to be more risk-taking." 

The second thing, if modern elephant culture is any indication, is that male mammoths may have been solitary loners. More likely to crash through thin ice and sinkholes, or get caught in a mudslide than females. These types of death are more likely to become preserved—so those are the remains that we find. The study is in the journal Current Biology. (Pecnerova et al, Genome-Based Sexing Provides Clues about Behavior and Social Structure in the Woolly Mammoth, Current Biology)

Dalén says this is an important reminder that the fossil record is far from complete. "The fossils we find might not always be representative of the species back when it lived." But with a little detective work, even seemingly random remains have much to reveal.

—Christopher Intagliata

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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