Today's Group Darwin Award is for the males of the Woolly Mammoth species,
Mammuthus primigenius, an elephant species extinct for about 10,000
years... in part due to the males' penchant for fossilization.
In the normal course of events a mammoth corpse is not preserved, yet a
minority find themselves wedged in glacial ice, swallowed by sinkholes,
taffy-footed in a tar seep, or covered over by mud. And those peculiarly
preserved pachyderms are mostly males. Multiple causes of the extinction
are likely, yet the tendency of males to wander away from the herd and win
Darwin Awards cannot have improved the species' survival odds.
Swedish mammoth-ologist Love Dalén reported in Current Biology that
70% of about 100 woolly mammoth remains sexed by his resesarch team were
male. "In many species, males tend to do somewhat stupid things that end up
getting them killed in silly ways," the author confided. His journal
article cited another study of 14 South Dakota mammoths -- of which 13 were
Natural traps have a fatal fascination for the boys, which leaves the
female elephants dumbfounded and presumably grateful for a matriarchal
The animals vanished so recently that people can eat mammoth meat pulled
from the Arctic refrigerator. If the extinct mammoth is resurrected
through the alchemy of modern biology, how long can the mammoth species
survive before their male members steer the species back into extinction?
THOUGHTFUL MAMMOTH DISCUSSION -- Visit our forums!
A Mammoth Genomic Meltdown
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Reference: CELL Current Biology
New York Times