Weak bones may have led to the extinction of one of the most iconic prehistoric creatures, suggests new research on a 16,200-year-old woolly mammoth vertebra.
The only fragment, unearthed in western Siberia, has an oval hole bored by a spear, the clearest proof that our ancestors hunted furry animals.
Some believe that excessive hunting of primitive humans may have contributed to its extinction, but the analysis of the vertebra has also revealed evidence of osteoporosis.
This condition weakens the bones, making them fragile and more likely to break, and experts now suspect that it may have been a key factor in the fall of the species.
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Weak bones may have led to the extinction of one of the most iconic prehistoric creatures, suggests research on a vertebra of woolly mammoths of 16,200 years old. The only fragment, discovered in western Siberia, has an oval-shaped hole made by a spear (pictured)
According to the analysis of the 16,200-year-old woolly mammoth bone, scientists believe that the fatal blow to the animal was a perforation of the vertebra.
It is believed that the wound was caused by the sharp point of light green quartzite that, according to experts, was thrown to "great strength".
Surprisingly, the traces of the quartzite remain buried in the bone, which was preserved in the cold of Siberia.
A recreation video made by the Khanty-Mansiysk Nature and Man Museum imagines the scene when the wounded mammoth is attacked by hunters of the Upper Paleolithic.
Researchers at Tomsk State University also discovered evidence of osteoporosis, the debilitating osteoporosis of the bones in the spine of the giant creature using advanced imaging techniques.
Now they hope to discover more secrets of the mammoth using the same methods as part of an international investigation.
Experts believe that the hole is the clearest proof that our ancestors hunted furry beasts, and some believe that this may have contributed to their extinction.
The wound analysis also revealed evidence of osteoporosis. This condition weakens the bones, making them fragile and more likely to break, and scientists suspect that it may have been a key factor in the fall of the species.
"This is a very valuable sample, which we hope will provide us with new information about the ecology of woolly mammoths during the time of their mass extinction," said Dr. Sergey Leshchinsky of Tomsk State University.
A Russian-Polish team will extract DNA and carry out a genetic analysis of the bone, according to the Siberian Times.
The experts will carry out synchrotron studies to study the microarchitecture of bone tissue and the wound area without destroying the sample.
Dr. Leshchinsky said: "Previously we have carried out similar studies, but with a lower resolution and we have discovered that the mammoth suffered from osteoporosis.
"This time, hopefully, the level of equipment will allow us to go much further."
The discovery was made in Lugovskoe's "mammoth cemetery" in 2002.
But the bone and its spear hole, 23.5 mm (about an inch) deep and 0.3 to 0.4 inches (seven to ten millimeters) wide, are now being examined more closely.
The killer hit was a perforation of the vertebra, a wound caused by the sharp green quartzite point sharpened by a spear that was thrown at "great force".
Its spear hole – 23.5 mm (about an inch) deep and 0.3 to 0.4 inches (seven to ten millimeters) wide – is now being examined more closely. Notable remains of the quartzite remain in the bone, which is preserved in the cold of Siberia
A recreation video made by the Khanty-Mansiysk Nature and Man Museum imagines the scene when the wounded mammoth is attacked by hunters of the Upper Paleolithic
The museum's scientist Anton Rezvy said: "There is a lot of evidence that ancient man used the mammoth to eat, for example, there are traces of mammoth on an old knife.
"But a direct test, like this, that the man was hunting the mammoth, you can count on the fingers of one hand."
"There is a dispute over how much humans influenced the extinction of the mammoth.
"Were the mammoths persecuted by humans or animals extinct because of the cold?
"Some scientists use our finding to prove the theory that man was the main reason for the extinction of the mammoth.
"But it is difficult to make that assumption in this particular case because we have to take into account that the mammoth remains were found in a muddy area where many of them stagnated.
"So even if the humans were hunting them here, it was more to kill animals that were already trapped in the mud and had no way to escape."
The theory of Dr. Leshchinsky is that osteoporosis was a key factor in the extinction of the species.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT WOOLLY MAMMOTH?
The woolly mammoth roamed the frozen tundra of Europe and North America for 140,000 years, disappearing at the end of the Pleistocene period, 10,000 years ago.
They are one of the best known prehistoric animals of science because their remains are often not fossilized but frozen and preserved.
The males were about 12 feet (3.5 m) tall, while the females were a little smaller.
The curved tusks were up to 16 feet (5 m) long and their calves boasted of having a long pile of hair up to 3 feet (1 m) long.
Small ears and short tails prevented the loss of vital body heat.
Their trunks had two fingers & # 39; at the end to help them pluck grass, twigs and other vegetation.
The Woolly Mammoth is one of the best-known prehistoric animals of science because its remains are often not fossilized but frozen and preserved (artist's impression).
They get their name from the Russian & # 39; mammut & # 39 ;, or mole of the earth, since it was believed that animals lived underground and died in contact with light, which explains why they were always found dead and half buried .
It was believed that his bones belonged to races of extinct giants.
Woolly mammoths and modern elephants are closely related and share 99.4% of their genes.
The two species took separate evolutionary paths six million years ago, about the same time that humans and chimpanzees got away with it.
Woolly mammoths coexisted with the first humans, who hunted them for food and used their bones and fangs to make weapons and art.