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Leshchinskiy et al., 2021

Holes in the spinous processes of woolly mammoth vertebrae: spatial and temporal distribution, and the causes of pathology formation

Leshchinskiy, S. V., Kuzmin, Y. V., Boudin, M., Amon, L.
AjakiriJournal of Quaternary Science
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The latest data on holes in the spinous processes of the vertebrae of woolly mammoths, a rare pathology, are presented. This was identified at 19 sites of northern Eurasia. Such destructive changes are recorded ca. 34–12k 14C a bp, and only two sites dated to >50k and >41k 14C a bp. The main hypotheses about hole formation are: vertebral abnormalities; bone infections; genetic traits; and unfavourable geochemical environment. The pathology occurred in mammoths of all age groups, and could have arisen at the embryonic stage. There are two types: classic holes associated with osteolytic changes; and very rarely tumour-like lesions. The most likely cause of the lesions is alimentary osteodystrophy caused by chronic mineral starvation. The aetiology of this disease is usually associated with a deficiency or excess of macro- and microelements in the geochemical landscape, and through forage and water this leads to a severe metabolic disorder. Analysis of palaeopathological data shows two waves of geochemical stress in animals, ca. 26–18k and ca. 16–12k 14C a bp. Therefore, the woolly mammoth extinction can be viewed as a non-linear function, with two peaks of high mortality corresponding to the Last Glacial Maximum and the Lateglacial

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