DNA: Mammoths May Have Mixed: Supposedly Separate Types May Really Have Been One

Article excerpt

The two major species of North American mammoth may have mated. DNA analysis of the Ice Age beasts' remains suggests that the woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) interbred with what has been considered a separate, more southerly species--the Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi).

Two Columbian specimens turn out to carry woollylike DNA inherited from their mothers, said Ross MacPhee of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, who presented the findings November 3.

"Woolly and Columbian mammoths may be so close that they should really be regarded as the same thing," he said. "One extraordinarily variable species."

Both types of mammoths roamed North America millennia ago. The smaller woolly mammoth was thought to have immigrated from Eurasia, while the larger Columbian was considered native to North America.

The new findings come from one well-preserved Columbian mammoth from Utah, and a second, less well-preserved one from Wyoming. DNA analysis placed both on the same branch of the genetic family tree as a subgroup of woollies. …