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Disappearance of wildflowers may have doomed Ice Age giants

Published on Feb 6, 2014 7:43 AM
 
A Mammoth tusk extracted from ice complex deposits along the Logata River in Taimyr, Russia, is shown in this undated handout photo provided by Professor Per Moller on Feb 5, 2014. Flower power may have meant the difference between life and death for some of the extinct giants of the Ice Age, including the mighty woolly mammoth and woolly rhinoceros. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Flower power may have meant the difference between life and death for some of the extinct giants of the Ice Age, including the mighty woolly mammoth and woolly rhinoceros.

Scientists who studied DNA preserved in Arctic permafrost sediments and in the remains of such ancient animals have concluded that these Ice Age beasts relied heavily on the protein-rich wildflowers that once blanketed the region.

But dramatic Ice Age climate change caused a huge decline in these plants, leaving the Arctic covered instead in grasses and shrubs that lacked the same nutritional value and could not sustain the big herbivorous mammals, the scientists reported in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

The change in vegetation began roughly 25,000 years ago and ended about 10,000 years ago - a time when many of the big animals slipped into extinction, the researchers said.

 
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