About 4 thousand years ago, a small population of woolly mammoths became extinct on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean. Perhaps these were the last mammoths on Earth. To find out the exact reasons for their death, American researchers restored the genes of these ancient animals in the laboratory.
In a previous 2017 study, other scientists concluded that the last mammoths on the planet suffered from a host of genetic defects that interfered with the animals' normal development, reproduction, and the ability to smell. Such mutations have accumulated due to rapid population decline, interbreeding between relatives and low genetic diversity.
In a new paper published in Genome Biology and Evolution, scientists compared the DNA of a mammoth from Wrangel Island with that of three Asian elephants and two mammoths from a large population. They found a number of genetic mutations that are unique to mammoths from Wrangel Island.
They then synthesized the altered genes and tested how proteins interact with other genes and molecules. This "test" was carried out for genes responsible for neurological development, male fertility, insulin signaling and smell.
The results obtained in the laboratory confirmed the conclusions of 2017: the last mammoths of the planet have accumulated harmful genetic mutations, which became one of the reasons for their complete extinction.