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Tracking a Prehistoric Woolly Mammoth

Global Brief

Tracking a Prehistoric Woolly Mammoth

Scientists have successfully followed the movements of a 17,000-year-old woolly mammoth named Kik, shedding light on the ancient mammal’s epic journeys across Alaska. This groundbreaking study, published in Smithsonian magazine, used isotopes found in mammoth tusks to trace the animal’s travels in unprecedented detail.

The arctic woolly mammoth, which stood 12 feet tall and had tusks up to 12 feet long, roamed the Alaskan interior during the Ice Age. Kik’s range expanded as he grew, covering vast distances between the Brooks Range and the Alaska Range. The research revealed that mammoths walked much farther than previously believed.

To create an accurate map of Kik’s journey, the researchers also collected isotopic data from rodents in Alaska. By analyzing the strontium isotopes in these rodents’ teeth, they were able to establish a strontium map of Alaska. The team then matched the strontium values in Kik’s tusk to the strontium map, allowing them to trace his travels and connect the dots of his route.

Photo credit: Science Photo Library/CanvaPro

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