A 2014 study in Nature has found that Arctic mega-beasts like the wooly mammoth may have grazed a much more varied landscape than previously thought.
Previously, researchers thought the Arctic looked like monolithic grassland steppe.
But by analyzing plant DNA in permafrost cores (like the one here from Talmyr, Siberia), the team found that many more wildflower-like plants called forbs were present at the time.
That suggests the landscape was filled with colorful blooms and a more varied flora than previously thought.
The team also analyzed the gut contents of Pleistocene beasts and found they ate a higher proportion of forbs than thought.
High protein snacks
These flowering plants could have provided high-protein, nutritious snacks for beast such as mammoths and rhinos .
The new results could also mean rethinking how much of different plant types that modern grazers, such as the bison, eat, researchers say.
Tia Ghose, Senior Writer
Tia has interned at Science News, Wired.com, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and has written for the Center for Investigative Reporting, Scientific American, and ScienceNow. She has a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California Santa Cruz.