Researchers resurrect mutated genes of one of the last wooly mammoths

The bitter end Last woolly mammoths plagued by genetic defects

This is an artist's rendition of a woolly mammoth.

The analysis revealed genetic mutations unique to the Wrangel Island mammoth.

Woolly mammoths were one of the most abundant, cold-adapted species on earth before the conclusion of the Pleistocene (~11,700 years ago). The final of that period let the raise of the Holocene Age, where many species of animals found their end. "Previous genetic studies have suggested that - but not demonstrated it - and found that the population of mammoths on Wrangel Island was small and getting smaller all the time, which led to lots of inbreeding among distant relatives". The creatures found their end nearly 5,000 years ago, and the cause of their death was unknown. These included disruptions to genes associated with neurological developmental defects (including a unsafe condition known as hydrolethalus syndrome), diabetes, reduced male fertility, and strangely, an inability to "detect floral scents", according to the paper. As their population shrank and potential mates declined in number, more fatal genetic mutations got piled on to them.

Woolly Mammoths may have developed a slew of genetic defects that potentially caused the extinction of a herd found near Siberia, according to a new study. This last colony of about 300 animals survived until around 4,000 years ago, but it wasn't a comfortable existence.

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"Shall we then test the functions of those genes in the lab-and it turns out the total mutations we examined changed how Wrangel Island mammoth genes functioned, and in systems that are expected to be quite atrocious", talked about Lynch, whose group of workers incorporated scientists from the College of Chicago, Northwestern College, College of Virginia, College of Vienna, and Penn Recount.

The woolly mammoth, about the size of today's elephants but possessing long brown fur and vast tusks, first appeared about 700,000 years ago in Siberia, expanding through northern Eurasia and North America. This paper takes those suggestions and tests them in mice.

To learn about the plight of these giant creatures and the forces that contributed to their extinction, scientists have resurrected a Wrangel Island mammoth's mutated genes.

"We stumbled on that mutations changed the aim of mammoth genes in systems that probably precipitated disease", talked about Lynch.

Reference: "Functional architecture of deleterious genetic variants in the genome of a Wrangel Island mammoth" by Erin Fry, Sun K Kim, Sravanthi Chigurapti, Katelyn M Mika, Aakrosh Ratan, Alexander Dammermann, Brian J Mitchell, Webb Miller and Vincent J Lynch, 7 February 2020, Genome Biology and Evolution. Thus, the combined effect of the lack of genetic diversity and inability to purge genetic mutations led to their mass extinction. They synthesised and cloned the genes, then placed them in gene-edited elephant embryos in a petri dish, so the researchers could observe how proteins expressed by the genes interacted with other genes and molecules. In other words, this Wrangell mammoth had lost the ability to smell the flowers.

SEE ALSO: Researchers Find "Ghost Footprints" Left Behind After The Last Ice Age! As the world warmed, and humans (and their hunting) spread, mammoths petered out; by just under 10,000 years ago, the species was extinct from its extensive mainland habitat across Eurasia and North America. But the multiple factors leading up to its lonely end could teach us to do better by the animals still living on our planet.

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