"Consequently, the mammoths that lived there had to evolve much
faster," he said. "The problem was how did they
interact with the European mammoths?"
To answer that question, Dr Sher, and Dr Adrian Lister of
University College, London, UK, looked at fossil samples from
various sites in European Russia, Europe and Siberia.
They came to the conclusion that during two critical periods in
the evolution of mammoths, Siberian mammoths migrated south and
encountered their European relatives.
Clash of the giants
Evidence from a site in what is now West Runton, Norfolk, shows
that steppe mammoths from Siberia encountered ancestral mammoths in
England about one million years ago.
Mammoth teeth found at a second site, in the village of Marsworth,
Buckinghamshire, point to a second clash of the giants, later in
This took place about 190,000 years ago, between woolly mammoths
from Siberia and the steppe mammoths of Europe.
Dr Adrian Lister, co-author of the mammoth study, published in
the journal Science, believes the newcomers probably replaced the
older mammoth populations.
"The older ones were dying out because the changed habitat wasn't
to their liking," Dr Lister said. "Whereas the
newcomers were adapted to the colder climate and more open treeless
But Dr Lister believes there was probably limited interbreeding
between the different mammoths, and even some squabbles.
"Closely related species like that wouldn't normally fight," he
concluded. "But it's possible they could have fought over
patches of feeding ground."