Mammoth with liquid blood found on the Novosibirsk Islands

 The unique discovery of Siberian scientists  06/5/2013, 14:49
Mammoth with liquid blood found on the Novosibirsk Islands
Photography by Semyon Grigoryev

An expedition from the North East Federal University (NEFU) found an adult female mammoth on one of the Lyakhovsky Islands, which are part of the Novosibirsk Archipelago off the northern coast of Siberia. It was later discovered that liquid blood has been preserved in the body, according to a statement on the NEFU website that Sib.fm’s correspondent examined on 5 June.

The find is unique because blood started to flow out when scientists poked the remains with an ice pick. That said, the temperature during excavations on the island, which is part of the giant Sakha Republic, was between minus 7 and 10 degrees Celsius. What’s more, it is the first carcass to be found in such good condition for 112 years. Fragments of muscle tissue even «have the natural colour of fresh meat». The mammoth was so well preserved because the lower part of the body was frozen in clean ice. The remains will be transported by helicopter to the nearest town, where international experts will get the chance to study them in July and August.

Exhibition leader Semyon Grigoryev, head of the Mammoth Museum at NEFU, told journalists in Yakutsk that scientists have already examined the teeth and established that the mammoth died at the age of 50-60. It is assumed that she lived 10-15 thousand years ago.

«Samples from the carcass have been brought to Yakutsk, where bacteriological analysis will be carried out in the near future. Researchers believe that subsequent tests of the blood and tissues will give us valuable scientific data,» remarked Grigoryev. In particular, the academics want to prove that mammoth blood had special cryo-protective qualities.

During the press conference, Grigoryev raised hopes that it will soon be possible to clone the mammoth. Last year it was reported that NEFU signed a cooperation agreement with Korean foundation Sooam as part of the «Mammoth Rebirth» project. The controversial research centre is led by Hwang Woo-Suk, who was given a two-year suspended sentence in 2009 for a fabricated series of experiments in the field of stem cell research, the results of which were published in high-profile scientific journals.

Nevertheless, the majority of the international scientific community reacted more sceptically to the news. «To clone a mammoth by finding intact cells — and, more importantly, an intact genome — is going to be exceptionally difficult, likely impossible,» said Love Dalén, a paleogeneticist at the Swedish Museum of Natural History. «Finding this mammoth makes it slightly less impossible.»

Mammoths are extinct mammals that lived from 5 million to 4,500 years ago in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. The largest species reached 5.5 metres in height and 10-12 tonnes in weight, making them two times heavier than African elephants. The majority of mammoths died out during the Last Glacial Period around 10,000 years ago.

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