Next to dinosaurs, woolly mammoths are the most awesome extinct creatures. Their extinction, though, has always been more of a mystery. Most scientists have always thought that climate change was to blame, that the ice-age creatures were well adapted to the cold of the tundra and that the heating up of Earth was their undoing. Some scientists believe human hunters contributed to the extinction of the mammoths. Others think that an asteroid or comet may have done to the mammoth what it did to the dinosaurs. But an article recently published in Nature posits a more specific and developed theory — that the woolly mammoth became extinct because the tiny flowers they frequently snacked on died out.
Woolly mammoths were vegetarian — in fact, they were vegan. They were seriously ahead of their time, weren’t they? They ate grass, or so scientists thought. An international team of scientists conducted a DNA analysis of mammoth poop (good times!) and frozen soil samples from Siberia and Alaska and determined that the mammoths dined primarily on little flowers called forbs, which are a main food source of modern-day cattle and bison. What’s surprising about these flowers is that they contain a high amount of protein, and are thus a far better source of sustenance than grass. They also make for a prettier picture, which is unexpected for the tundra.