Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Ice Age's Arctic Tundra Lush with Wildflowers for Woolly Mammoths, Study Finds

A recent study in the journal Nature finds that nearly 50,000 years ago during the ice age, the landscape was not as drab as once thought -- it was filled with colorful wildflowers. These wildflowers helped sustain woolly mammoths and other giant grazing animals.

The study, "Fifty thousand years of Arctic vegetation and megafauna diet," included Joseph Craine, assistant professor in the Division of Biology at Kansas State University. It was led by the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen and was a collaboration of more than 25 academic institutions and research laboratories from around the world.

The study looked at 50,000 years of arctic vegetation history to understand how fauna had changed with animals and humans.

Historically, the belief is that the ice age's landscape was covered by largely grass-dominated systems -- called steppe. These grasses were replaced by mosses and other boggy vegetation when the ice age ended nearly 10,000 years ago, Craine said.

For the study, researchers visited museums in Alaska, Canada, Norway and Russia to collect DNA samples from inside the gut of frozen mammoths, bison, horses and rhinoceros that lived in the ice age.

Molecular techniques were used to look for plant DNA in each ancient animal's digestive tract. Plant DNA was then sequenced and reconstructed to differentiate wildflowers from grasses.

"Once the gut contents and soils started getting sequenced, they began finding lots more wildflowers than before," Craine said. "Nearly half of the digested plants were wildflowers. So, rather than having this really grassy, dull system like we believe existed, it suddenly was one that was very colorful."

The study challenges the view that the arctic landscape in the ice age was largely grasslands.

"Part of the scientific debate is knowing what the past looked like," Craine said. "There have always been debates about how a region that's so cold could have supported animals that were so large. Mammoths were huge and lived on these largely barren landscapes. Now we know that they were spending a lot of time eating wildflowers, which have a lot more protein in them than grasses, which means that they could support larger animals."

Craine helped interpret data and the consequences of losing bison and other grazing animals over thousands of years in parts of the world.

Although the findings reframe 50,000 years of the past, they also are applicable to predicting the future, Craine said.

Animals' grazing and climate changes stressed and eventually reshaped the vegetation in the tundra from wildflowers and grasses to moss and marshes, he said.

"The work is important because we can use the past to help us predict the future," Craine said. "But the work really makes us reevaluate how well we understand the diets of modern animals. If we misunderstood what bison and mammoths ate 15,000 years ago, maybe we should look more closely at what bison and elephants eat today. We just might find new surprises."

Joseph Craine | Newswise
Further information:

Further reports about: Arctic Ocean DNA Tundra Woolly Adelgid crystalline ice age mammoths wildflowers

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>