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Wildflowers may have flourished during Ice Age, research finds

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, at 2:42 p.m.

Ice Age landscapes included an unlikely sight, according to new research – wildflowers everywhere.

A study in the journal Nature, which includes contributions from many researchers including Kansas State University’s assistant professor of biology Joseph Craine, suggests the wildflowers were a regular item in the diets of woolly mammoths, ancient horses and other grazing animals.

For the study, researchers collected DNA samples from the guts of frozen ice age mammoths, bison, horses and rhinoceros, according to a prepared statement from Kansas State University. The researchers studied the materials at the molecular level and figured out what plant species the animals were eating.

Over time, according to the prepared statement, the Ice Age plant life changed more to mosses and bogs, both from climate change and stress caused by grazing.

Studying the past like this gives clues about how animal and plant life, as well as landscapes, adapt to climate change and stress, the KSU statement said.

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