Paleontologists learn where mammoths survived severe times

The scientists at TSU’s Faculty of Geology and Geography and the University of Wroclaw (Poland) are conducting joint studies of mammoth fauna. The paleontologists are studying the remains of the largest animals on earth, found in different parts of the world, and conducting comparative analysis. This helps to establish what diseases woolly mammoths suffered before their extinction, and in what places they survived unfavorable times.

- We are studying the remains of fossil animals found in different countries - Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia,-  says Dr. Krzysztof Stefaniak (University of Wroclaw), a researcher at the Laboratory of Mesozoic and Cenozoic Continental Ecosystems. - There are several unique locations in Western Siberia, including one of the largest burial places of mammoths in Eurasia, in the tract of Volchia Griva (Novosibirsk Region), studied by TSU’s scientists.

According to the paleontologist from Poland, in the bones of ancient animals, we can find traces of diseases identical to human ones, for example, osteoporosis, arthrosis, and other pathologies of the skeletal system. This suggests that tens of thousands of years ago, unidirectional natural processes occurred at different points in the Northern Hemisphere. The geochemical composition of soils changed, and consequently the vegetation. This led to a shortage of vital micro- and macroelements in the diet of large herbivores.

Dating the remnants of mammoths and using the results of paleo-DNA research allows reconstructing migration routes of the largest mammals of the Late Pleistocene in search of conditions suitable for life.

As the scientist from Poland observes, the paleo-DNA method gives a lot of interesting information. For example, paleontologists found that in the Pleistocene during the glacial periods, the thermophilic fauna moved to the south of Europe, where there were refugia - places in which animals survived adverse geological episodes. Animals coming to Central Europe (including modern Poland) from Siberia and Central Asia were adapted to existence in the cold steppes - mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, deer, deer, bison, and other species. When the warming came, the “cold” fauna went from Europe back to Siberia.

- Now we often hear about global climate warming. The results of many studies indicate that such periods have been on the Earth many times, - says Krzysztof Stefaniak. Therefore, it is very important to study the past and understand the processes that took place before. This will help to predict what will happen to our planet in the next hundreds and thousands of years.

Along with joint scientific research, TSU and University of Wroclaw collaborate in education. Currently, the academic exchange is carried under the international project Erasmus +. In addition, the two universities began to establish a joint Master's program, Evolutionary Biology, Paleontology, and Stratigraphy (working title). On the TSU side, the Faculty Geology and Geography and Institute of Biology are engaged in developing the program, and on the University of Wroclaw side, the Faculty of Biological Sciences and the Faculty of Earth Sciences and Environmental Management are involved.