For this week’s picture, I found an image in my archives that’s suddenly timely again:
It’s a sculpture of a mammoth outside Paris’ Gallery of Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy, part of its sprawling National Museum of Natural History (you might recall a bit of the museum’s history from earlier podcast episodes). You can safely ignore the McDonald’s in the background for now (or make your own joke to suit your taste!).
Anyway, the extinction of the mammoths seems to be one of those topics that comes up in a flurry of news coverage once or twice a year, then is quickly forgotten again. The most recent surge of press covers some recent DNA analysis of the big critters.
It had once been thought that the Siberian and North American populations of mammoths were well-mixed, nearly homogenous. Later work revealed that mammoths on the two continents had separate genetic profiles — and the most recent work seems to indicate that over a period of time at least 40,000 years ago, the Siberian population collapsed and was replaced by North American mammoths. By the time they finally (mostly) died out, about 10,000 years ago (for reasons still in dispute), the final survivors were all of North American descent.