The majority of woolly mammoths went extinct 10,600 years ago when climate change caused their supply of drinking water to dry up. Scientists analyzed climate change and came to the conclusion that global warming likely led to the shallow waters responsible for the animal's demise.
A study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that island dwelling mammoths experienced a different water-related threat than their mainland cousins. The mammoth's island homes began to shrink in size as rising temperatures raised sea levels. As salt water flowed into the leftover reservoirs, it diminished the freshwater mammoths relied on for drinking. The isolated mammoths that resided on the islands of the Arctic Circle survived longer than mainland mammoths.
The group of mammoths living on St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea survived for 5,000 years longer than mainland mammoths. The very last breed of mammoths lived on Wrangel Island, in the Arctic Ocean; this animal group was thought to go extinct only 4,000 years ago.
As watering holes became more limited, the mammoths crowded themselves on the land that was left; this started a worse problem: destroyed vegetation. Russell Graham, a professor from Pennsylvania State University, said “As the other lakes dried up, the animals congregated around the water holes. The mammoths were contributing to their own demise.” The concentrated numbers of mammoths began to crush the lake habitat. The new spaces in the soil made the vegetation more porous, allowing ocean water to seep in. The ocean water mixed with the freshwater, making it unfit for drinking.
Elephants need to drink 70 to 200 liters of water daily and scientists like Graham presume mammoths required the same amount. Graham thinks it would not have taken much time for the water holes to dry up.
Researchers say the mammoth's demise should serve as a warning of how climate change can affect our present-day freshwater and environment, especially on small islands. A professor from the Swedish Museum of Natural History expressed concerns "that small populations are very sensitive to changes in the environment.” In other words, we should be more aware of threatened species and do more to reduce climate change.