“The research shows that the Ice Age animal traveled a distance equivalent to circling the Earth twice.” Talk about being a frequent traveler!
A recent study published in the Science journal describes the life journey of a male mammoth from the day it was born till his death. The mammoth’s movements were calculated from the analysis of isotopes in one of its tusks which acts just like the rings found in trees which are used to calculate their age. The mammoth’s tusks keep adding layers as time goes on and when the ivory is split length-wise, the growth bands offer a chronological record of its entire life history. About 17,000 years ago, the mammoth named Kik by the researchers, lived in Alaska as part of a herd and died alone from starvation in the northernmost Brooks Range of mountains. In his 28 years of life, he covered about 70,000km of the Alaskan landscape which is almost twice the circumference of Earth which is about 40,000km. “This really is one of the very first insights into the life history of an Arctic woolly mammoth,” said Matthew Wooller, co-lead author of the study.
According to researchers’ study, Kik lived as part of a herd during infancy but then around 15-16 years of age, started traveling further north and left the herd. This is a common behavior pattern in some elephant herds where the males are “encouraged to strike off on their own”. During his journey, it’s presumed that he crossed paths with caribou as well. Kik’s remains were found near the Arctic gravel bar in 2010 and the analysis of its tusk shows that he died due to nutritional stress during his last days and didn’t move around much.
The study not only shows the life journey of an ice-age creature but also sheds light on the living conditions of the species living in the Arctic even today and the environmental issues they might be facing.