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Genetic Linkage

Extinction of the Woolly Rhino: Ancient Genomes Point to Climate Change, not Overhunting

Two views of the forces behind extinction of the woolly rhino elegantly illustrate how scientific thinking shifts to embrace new knowledge – a phenomenon that reverberates as new findings about COVID-19 pour in.

 

Several large animal species ("megafauna") vanished with the last ice age, including woolly rhinos and mammoths, huge armadillos, cave lions, and sabertooth tigers. The prevailing view of the extinctions blamed overhunting by humans, a scenario that once roughly fit broad timelines. But in a new report in Current Biology, DNA data from preserved rhinos open a window into the past onto climate change. The new view charts the ebb and flow of long-ago rhino populations, while identifying specific gene variants that flesh out how well the animals had been adapted to the cold – putting them at a disadvantage when the climate warmed.

 

It's interesting to contrast how different types of data support different conclusions.

 

To continue reading, go to my DNA Science blog.

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