Why are most mammoth fossils male?

Swedish scientists have offered an explanation for why there are more male mammoth fossils in Siberia. Accordingly, female mammoths roamed in groups led by an experienced female. Whereas male mammoths living alone were at higher risk of dying in natural traps, the researchers say. Male mammoths drowned in swamps or fell into cliffs. Such environments also provide the necessary conditions for the fossilization of the corpse. About seventy percent of mammoth fossils found in Siberia belong to male mammoths.

It’s not just about hormones or the willingness to take risks, but rather the social structure of woolly mammoths. The Mammuthus primigenis mammoth most likely lived like today’s elephants. Experienced females formed large herds with cubs, while males moved in “single groups” over larger areas.

But the old male mammoths were trying to survive alone in the icy nature of Siberia. Without the support of the herd or the help of experienced females, male mammoths were thus more likely to fall into natural traps such as swamps or rock crevices, Love Dalen explains. Fossils from other Ice Age finds also confirm this thesis. From the hot springs in South Dakota to the glacial lake in Condover in England, animals have been fossilized by accidental death. Similar situations were found in previous investigations.

For example, wild horse remains and Teleoceras rhino fossils found in the Los Angeles tar pits (La Brea Tar Pit) generally belong to male animals. Researchers think that the social structure is responsible for the situation here. But it is not always true that male animals live at risk. Numerous bison bones have also been found in the tar quarries in Los Angeles, and most of them are females. Female bison migrate from this region, especially in the spring. However, at this time of year, the tar was very sticky, say the researchers.

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