Genetic diversity could shrink as animals venture into new territories because of global heating, leaving them vulnerable to extinction, scientists have warned after tracking the impact of climate change on the American mastodon.
Huge, hairy, and with a pair of fearsome tusks, mastodons resembled stocky, hirsute elephants. The earliest fossils of American mastodons date to about 3.5 to 4 million years ago with the creatures commonly found in wooded and swampy areas where they browsed on trees and shrubs.
But by 11,000 years ago they were extinct–probably, experts say, because of a combination of climate change and human hunting.
Now researchers say an analysis of ancient mitochondrial DNA has shed new light on the impact of global heating and cooling on the beasts.
“As the temperature warmed, they followed expanding forest and swampy niches