Stories tagged mammoth

Frozen baby mammoth: This image shows a frozen baby mammoth, on display at the Field Museum in Chicago, found several years ago by the same research team.
Frozen baby mammoth: This image shows a frozen baby mammoth, on display at the Field Museum in Chicago, found several years ago by the same research team.Courtesy Matt Howry
On a remote Arctic island of northern Russia, researchers have found another fully frozen mammoth. And this discovery comes with an added bonus. The specimen has liquid blood. It's the biggest breakthrough for potentially collecting viable mammoth DNA to conduct cloning experiments to try to recreate the long-extinct pachyderms. The link above also has a nice gallery of photos showing this discovery and a vial of actual liquid mammoth blood. And here's a link to a previous Buzz post of discovering frozen mammoths, the potential for cloning them and the ethics of doing so.

Dec
27
2011

The Finishing Touches: When last we saw the mammoth, the base had been completed but still had to be painted and the tusks had to be attached.
The Finishing Touches: When last we saw the mammoth, the base had been completed but still had to be painted and the tusks had to be attached.Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Specialized Inserts were Created for Each Tusk: This is the view from the underside of the mammoth's left tusk.
Specialized Inserts were Created for Each Tusk: This is the view from the underside of the mammoth's left tusk.Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Attaching the Mammoth's Left Tusk: A bolt is attached to the tusk and is threaded through the insert inside the tusk cavity.
Attaching the Mammoth's Left Tusk: A bolt is attached to the tusk and is threaded through the insert inside the tusk cavity.Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Tightening the Bolt from Above
Tightening the Bolt from AboveCourtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

The Insert for the Right Tusk is Built into the Skull's Actual Tusk
The Insert for the Right Tusk is Built into the Skull's Actual TuskCourtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Attaching the Right Tusk
Attaching the Right TuskCourtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Tightening the Screw for the Right Tusk
Tightening the Screw for the Right TuskCourtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

The Finished Skull: Check back to see how the skull is installed for exhibition!
The Finished Skull: Check back to see how the skull is installed for exhibition!Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Mar
17
2011

Wire Mesh Forms the Base: Most of the time, fossils that paleontologists find are incomplete.  In this case, about half of the skull was missing.  In order to provide a better understanding of what the skull looked like, paleontologists reconstruct the missing portions based on other similar specimens.
Wire Mesh Forms the Base: Most of the time, fossils that paleontologists find are incomplete. In this case, about half of the skull was missing. In order to provide a better understanding of what the skull looked like, paleontologists reconstruct the missing portions based on other similar specimens.Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Sculpting: Plaster and other materials are sculpted on to the wire base.
Sculpting: Plaster and other materials are sculpted on to the wire base.Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Sculpting Foam: To recreate larger sections, foam pieces are sculpted.
Sculpting Foam: To recreate larger sections, foam pieces are sculpted.Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Comparing the sides of the skull: Measurements for the reconstructed side are based on the preserved half of the skull.  The preparators try and make the skull as symmetrical as possible.
Comparing the sides of the skull: Measurements for the reconstructed side are based on the preserved half of the skull. The preparators try and make the skull as symmetrical as possible.Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Finished Foam
Finished FoamCourtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Covering the foam: The foam is painted with grit to make it appear like a fossil.
Covering the foam: The foam is painted with grit to make it appear like a fossil.Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Tusks: The actual tusks are too heavy for the skull to support.  Lightweight foam tusks were made and will be attached to the skull.
Tusks: The actual tusks are too heavy for the skull to support. Lightweight foam tusks were made and will be attached to the skull.Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Front of the Nearly Finsihed Skull
Front of the Nearly Finsihed SkullCourtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Back of the Nearly Finished Skull
Back of the Nearly Finished SkullCourtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Feb
04
2011

Field Jacket is Half Off: Last week we left off with the skull at the beginning of the cleaning /preparation process.  This photo shows what the skull looks like when half of it has been cleaned! Once the whole skull has been cleaned the skull will be ready to be oriented in it's anatomical position.
Field Jacket is Half Off: Last week we left off with the skull at the beginning of the cleaning /preparation process. This photo shows what the skull looks like when half of it has been cleaned! Once the whole skull has been cleaned the skull will be ready to be oriented in it's anatomical position.Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Attaching the Mount: In order to get the skull upright, a special mount is created.  The mount is attached to the skull via steel pins which are embedded in plaster.  This photo also shows the reconstructions of one of the skulls molars and portions of the reconstructed maxilla.
Attaching the Mount: In order to get the skull upright, a special mount is created. The mount is attached to the skull via steel pins which are embedded in plaster. This photo also shows the reconstructions of one of the skulls molars and portions of the reconstructed maxilla.Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Raising the Skull: Once the mount has been firmly attached to the skull the entire apparatus has to be lifted with a forklift so it can be oriented correctly and attached to the mount’s base.
Raising the Skull: Once the mount has been firmly attached to the skull the entire apparatus has to be lifted with a forklift so it can be oriented correctly and attached to the mount’s base.Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

The Upright Skull: The mounted skull has been securely attached to its standing platform.  Check back next week to see the mount disappear as portions of the skull are reconstructed in the final blog post of this series.
The Upright Skull: The mounted skull has been securely attached to its standing platform. Check back next week to see the mount disappear as portions of the skull are reconstructed in the final blog post of this series.Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Jan
27
2011

How does a fossil go from being discovered to being a part of the Science Museum’s collections? In this first in a series of three posts, we’ll track a mammoth skull from being discovered in the field through the initial cleaning and processing at the museum. Check out the photos and the brief description of the process.

Lyle Excavation: In 1997, William Lyle discovered a fossil eroding from an embankment on his farm located just outside of Albert Lea, MN.  Museum staff were contacted and a salvage excavation was conducted.
Lyle Excavation: In 1997, William Lyle discovered a fossil eroding from an embankment on his farm located just outside of Albert Lea, MN. Museum staff were contacted and a salvage excavation was conducted.Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Mammoth Skull: A close inspection of the skull reveals that it’s a woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius).  The skull is believed to be from an adult male due to the large size of the skull and tusks, the large number enamel ridges on its molars, and the concave slope of the forehead.
Mammoth Skull: A close inspection of the skull reveals that it’s a woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius). The skull is believed to be from an adult male due to the large size of the skull and tusks, the large number enamel ridges on its molars, and the concave slope of the forehead.Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Field Jacket: Once the skull and tusks have been excavated, they have to be prepared for safe transport back to the museum.   A plaster field jacket is wrapped around the skull and the adjacent sediment.
Field Jacket: Once the skull and tusks have been excavated, they have to be prepared for safe transport back to the museum. A plaster field jacket is wrapped around the skull and the adjacent sediment.Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Removing Field Jacket: Back in the lab, the first step is to cut away portions of the plaster field jacket.
Removing Field Jacket: Back in the lab, the first step is to cut away portions of the plaster field jacket.Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Removing Matrix: Next, museum volunteer Neva Key removes the loose sediment matrix that surrounds the skull.  This is often a very labor intensive job and can take months to finish.
Removing Matrix: Next, museum volunteer Neva Key removes the loose sediment matrix that surrounds the skull. This is often a very labor intensive job and can take months to finish.Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota

Check back next week for part two of the three part series on the Lyle Mammoth, when the challenge of creating a mount for the skull to stand upright will be discussed.

Jan
17
2011

Although, despite its elephant mother: it should be a true genetic mammoth, and not some sort of hybrid Altered Beast.
Although, despite its elephant mother: it should be a true genetic mammoth, and not some sort of hybrid Altered Beast.Courtesy Tracy O
Y'all were probably walking around thinking, "Hey! There's pretty much no way a woolly mammoth could kill me. Dip-de-doo!"

And y'all were probably snuggling into bed each night, cozy in the knowledge that if there was any way a mammoth could end your life, it would have to be from a 12,000-year-old tusk falling off an overloaded tusk-shelf, or something. And you went to sleep happy and safe.

Well, y'all are about to feel like a jerk. Sorry, but 3... 2... 1...

Scientists in Japan want to clone a woolly mammoth and there's a chance, however imperceptibly small, that that cloned mammoth could kill you!!! Like, maybe you're having a birthday party in Japan, and, attracted by the smell of cake, the mammoth breaks free from its enclosure and stomps your whole party. And it eats your cake!

You're thinking a) mammoths don't give a crap about cake; and b) they've talked about cloning mammoths for years, and it still hasn't happened, and I haven't been attacked by any Pleistocene megafauna.

Ok. A) How do you presume to know if a mammoth will want cake or not? Plus, it doesn't have to be cake. Maybe you're just jogging through Japan, and the mammoth sees your mousy ears and decides you need a stomping. The scenarios are practically limitless.

And B) this particular announcement may be something new in the field of wild speculation. While previous plans to do some mammoth cloning have been dismissed on account of all available mammoth DNA being damaged by a dozen millennia, a new technique may have bypassed that hurdle. Scientists at Kobe's Riken Center for Developmental Biology have cloned a mouse from cells that had been frozen for 16 years, and they think the same method could be applied to frozen mammoth remains. If enough viable DNA can be obtained, it would be implanted in the egg of an African elephant to create a mammoth embryo.

This won't happen overnight, however. There's still research to be done, and clone success rates in normal animals hover around 30%. And even if a mammoth embryo is successfully created, elephant gestation lasts about a year and a half. If all goes well, the scientists think it's possible to have a living, cloned mammoth within 6 years.

So enjoy the next six years. After that... it could be a bloodbath!

Mar
15
2010

Cool, it is a baby mammoth: A new traveling museum exhibit features a frozen baby mammoth, found in the ice of Siberia in 2007.
Cool, it is a baby mammoth: A new traveling museum exhibit features a frozen baby mammoth, found in the ice of Siberia in 2007.Courtesy Field Museum
A few years ago, I posted a story about the find of a frozen baby mammoth in Siberia. You can refresh your memory of that discovery here.

Now, an exhibit on mammoths and mastodons has opened at the Field Museum of Chicago and visitors have the chance to see the frozen mammoth baby up close and in person (and right now you can look at the photo of it on exhibit right next to this paragraph). The Field Museum hosts the exhibit through Sept. 5 and then an international tour begins, running through 2014.

Here's an interesting story about what researchers have been able to learn about mammoths based on their findings from the mammoth baby, as well.

Dec
08
2009

Poop with flies: you always manage to find a few of these guys on the pile.
Poop with flies: you always manage to find a few of these guys on the pile.Courtesy PKmousie
Poop. Poop. Poop. Poop. There. Have I got your attention? Of course, who can resist a story on poop? It is such a widely discussed topic with a vast array of monikers. Probably not a decent topic of conversation for invited guests or the dinner table, but it does get its chat time. Despite the disgust that it truly is, there is a curious fascination with the whole matter. It can tell you about your health, especially if you have the runs. It can tell you if you’ve been chewing your food well, or if you need to lay off the cheese. If you are a proper biologist, you’ve probably bent down and touched it or even broke it up to examine what passed. Certain scientists, such as Scatologists pursue the study of scat (poop) as a means to tell us more about a certain animal’s habits. If by the Fates, a poo survives intact and becomes old enough to fossilize, then we would call it a coprolite. Coprolites have been recovered from dinosaurs, ancient whales, fish, and prehistoric mammals to name a few.Coprolite: one very old poo
Coprolite: one very old pooCourtesy AlishaV

Recent news from BBC detailed a story about scientists studying the ancient droppings from mammoths. Well sort of. The researchers were examining mud deposits from a lake for fungal spores that are produced in large herbivore dung (mammoth poo). Their research concludes that the extra large mammals of the recent past experienced a slow and steady decline starting about 15,000 years ago. This flies in the face of the current prevailing theory, that an asteroid impact about 12,900 years ago caused global upheaval, world spread wildfire, and then abrupt extinction of the mega mammals. The asteroid theory had already been under assault by lack of evidence in soil samples. Samples taken all over the continent in soil cores extracted from peat bogs and lake bottoms.
Mammoth: artistic re-creation
Mammoth: artistic re-creationCourtesy ecstaticist
Was early man really responsible for the start of the downfall of the mammoth? I think undoubtedly we had a hand in their fate, but the answer is most likely multifaceted. Taking a closer look at the dung heaps of the past may well continue to give us a better picture of paleohistory. Just watch where you step!

mammoth dung story

mammoth comet story

Nice story on a recent find of a baby mammoth"

General Mammoth info
http://www.museum.state.il.us/exhibits/larson/mammuthus.html
http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/mammal/mammoth/about_mammoths.html

Nov
20
2008

Man vs. mammoth: Is a face-off like this in our future...again?
Man vs. mammoth: Is a face-off like this in our future...again?Courtesy redskunk
Scientists are another step closer to making Jurassic Park a reality. Well, not quite Jurassic Park, but certainly Pleistocene Park.

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have decoded 80 percent of the DNA for the woolly mammoth, an elephant ancestor that went extinct about 10,000 years ago. The results of their study appear in the journal Nature.

The DNA was extracted from actual mammoth hair found preserved in the permafrost of Siberia. Hair encapsulates DNA, providing a purer source of the genetic material than that found in fossil bones that are vulnerable to contamination by bacteria and other creatures involved in decomposition. We covered this in a previous post.

About six million years of evolution separate the wooly mammoth from its modern descendents the Indian and African elephants. And so far they appear genetically to be very similar, although a complete assessment of differences won’t be available until the complete genomes of mammoths and modern elephants are mapped. The data sets for each is comprised of about 4 billion DNA bases.

But even then you don’t have to worry about rogue mammoths running amok on the interstates (have you ever hit a moose? Multiply that experience by about 15). Science is still decades away from cloning an actual specimen – or even a hybrid with a living elephant - from the genetic material. The technology just isn’t there yet. But that’s not the only thing in the way.

"It could be done,” said co-author Stephan Schuster, a biochemistry professor at Penn State. “The question is, just because we might be able to do it one day, should we do it?"

Sounds familiar doesn’t it? The same question was posed by one of the characters in Michael Crichton's book Jurassic Park just before things got really hairy.

SOURCES and LINKS

Penn State's mammoth research page
Live Science story
Previous Buzz story on mammoth cloning

Mar
30
2008

40 tons of Russian mammoth ivory exported last year

Wooly mammoth tusks
Wooly mammoth tusksCourtesy Hyperbolation
Wooly mammoth tusks are thawing out of the permafrost in Russia. Reindeer herders, oil and gas workers and professional ivory hunters are gathering up nearly pristine ivory as it emerges from the thawing permafrost. The tusks emerge with the spring thaw or after heavy rains, or along the eroding banks of rivers.

“They gather tusks like mushrooms after the rain, literally,” said Aleksei Tikhonov, the director of the Zoological Museum in St. Petersburg and an expert on mammoths.

Will mammoth ivory help endangered elephants?

About 90 percent of the Siberian ivory that is recovered is exported to Asia, where it is principally used in the manufacture of personal seals that in Japan, China and South Korea are used in place of signatures for business transactions.

150,000,000 mammoths still buried

The Siberian permafrost blankets millions of square miles. Hidden in one of the upper layers of this mass, corresponding to the Pleistocene Epoch, are the remains of an estimated 150 million mammoths. If left outside and exposed to the elements, this ivory will disintegrate within three years into worthless splinters. While prices vary, leading dealers in Moscow usually ask $150 to $200 a pound for average-grade ivory.

Source: New York Times