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Cave in Northern Siberia shows the musk ox survived longer in the region than experts believed

By The Siberian Times reporter
24 July 2013

An expedition to one of Eurasia's northernmost caves unlocks secrets that might help explain the extinction of mammoths.

The find means that  the circumstances of the demise of musk oxen needs to be re-written, and it may help get a clearly idea of the reason for the extinction of the mammoth, a coeval. Picture of Musk ox, courtesy Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

Until now, musk oxen were believed to have perished in Siberia at around the same time as the mammoths and rhinoceroses, some 10,000 years ago. The recent expedition to the cave in the Yamalo-Nenets autonomous area suggests they lived until much more recently.

Scientist Pavel Kosintsev said: 'We found musk ox fossils of a relatively late period - dating back to 5,000-6,000 years ago. 

'We have found out that this contemporary to mammoth lived in the Polar Urals region relatively recently. The exact dating of the fossils will be possible after special analyses'.

The find means that  the circumstances of the demise of musk oxen needs to be re-written, and it may help get a clearly idea of the reason for the extinction of the mammoth, a coeval.

'Why did such big animals as mammoths die out, while smaller species, such as musk oxen, survived for several thousands of years?,' he asked.

'Now that we know that different species went extinct at different rates, we can develop a more comprehensive approach to the problem of extinction of species, which is important for forecasting future development of ecosystems in various regions,' he told Itar-Tass.

The expedition was made by members of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Flora and Fauna Ecology. Kosintsev is the head of the institute's paleoecology laboratory.

Populations of musk oxen have been re-introduced into Siberia. The animal survived in Arctic Canada and Greenland.

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