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How did mammoths become extinct?

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Quick Answer

The last of the mammoths survived in Alaska about 10,000 years ago. No definite reason has been attributed to the demise of the mammoths, though several factors, such as climate change, the arrival of humans and even meteorological events, are being studied and linked with the extinction of the large herbivorous mammals.

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Full Answer

Mammoths are relatives of elephants and are believed to have thrived during the Pleistocene Period about 1.8 millions years ago. Because mammoths are adapted to colder climate, many scientists believe that the woolly giants began to dwindle after the Ice Age. The changing environment and conditions probably thinned out the vegetation, which might cause the animals to suffer from lack of essential food supply.

Scientists also believe that the arrival and intervention of humans played in the extinction of mammoths. There is anthropological evidence that humans hunted mammoths for their skin, meat and bones. Contact with humans, who explored new territories and dominated the animals' natural habitat, as well as climate change, could have led to the demise of the mammoths.

A research study in 2007 led scientists to speculate on the possibility that mammoths in North America were probably wiped out by a meteor or comet that hit the Earth thousands of years ago. Some scientists argue that a large asteroid might have caused the Younger Dryas Period, a short-lived cold snap some 10,000 years ago. The after-effects of the period caused extreme weather imbalances in Europe and North America, which might have also driven the mammoths to extinction.

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