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West Runton Mammoth: Mystery of ‘sex bias’ in fossil record solved, says professor

PUBLISHED: 11:48 04 November 2017 | UPDATED: 13:57 04 November 2017

The West Runton Mammoth. Image: Dmitry Bogdanov

The West Runton Mammoth. Image: Dmitry Bogdanov

Dmitry Bogdanov Wiki CC

Norfolk’s famous West Runton Mammoth was male, just like the overwhelming majority - 69pc - of other mammoth fossil finds.

The jaw (mandibles) and teeth of the West Runton Mammoth (A Steppe Mammoth, Mammuthus trogontherii). At 4m at the shoulder, and weighing twice as much as a modern African bull elephant (c. 1015 tonnes) Steppe Mammoths were one of the largest elephant species ever to have lived. © Norfolk Museums Service (photograph by David Kirkham) The jaw (mandibles) and teeth of the West Runton Mammoth (A Steppe Mammoth, Mammuthus trogontherii). At 4m at the shoulder, and weighing twice as much as a modern African bull elephant (c. 1015 tonnes) Steppe Mammoths were one of the largest elephant species ever to have lived. © Norfolk Museums Service (photograph by David Kirkham)

And now scientists from the Swedish Museum of Natural History believe they have stumbled upon the reason behind this ‘sex bias’ in the mammoth fossil record.

The fossilized skeleton of a steppe mammoth found in the cliffs of West Runton on the north Norfolk coast is the largest nearly-complete mammoth skeleton ever found anywhere, and it has proven a source of fascination since it was found by nearby residents Harold and Margaret Hems in 1990.

MORE: Three dimensional copy of Norfolk’s mammoth could be heading home

Love Dalen, a professor from the museum, said males such as the West Runton Mammoth were more likely to roam alone and get themselves into risky situations where they were swept into bogs or sinkholes which preserved their bones for millennia.

He said: “Without the benefit of living in a herd led by an experienced female, male mammoths may have had a higher risk of dying in natural traps such as bogs, crevices, and lakes.”

MORE: ‘Mammoth’s penis’ found on north Norfolk coast

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