Diet linked to mammoth extinction

The sudden extinction of mammoths and other large mammals of the tundra 10,000 years ago could have been due to a drastic diet change.

Researchers from Lund University in Sweden, together with 30 other research teams from 12 countries, have used new DNA technology to show that a change in the dominant vegetation - from protein-rich herbs to less nutritious grass - could be behind their demise, said the university.

The study looked at which plants were dominant during the last 50,000 years in the Arctic land areas of northern Russia, Canada and Alaska. The cold, dry tundra was home to many mammoths, woolly rhinoceros, steppe bison, horses and musk oxen.

To get this information, the scientists examined plant DNA residue from soil samples to get an overview of the various plant species that dominated the mammoth steppe, and analysed the stomach contents of eight large mammal carcasses found preserved in the frozen ground.

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