Stories tagged wooly 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.

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
13
2007

Buckle up, Willy: A nice illustration of a mammoth, ruined by a bullseye,
Buckle up, Willy: A nice illustration of a mammoth, ruined by a bullseye,Courtesy rpongsaj
Man, life 35,000 years ago was so much cooler. Sure, they didn’t have the robots and flying cars we enjoy today, in the future, but think about all the great stuff that was around then… There were mile-high ice cubes roaming the northern hemisphere, hilarious cave men, and practically every animal was huge and had “wooly” attached to its name.

Now we can add to that list “earth-sighted extra-terrestrial mega-shotguns.” This is a scientific term, which I have just invented.

An earth-sighted extra-terrestrial mega-shotgun is, in layman’s terms, a meteorite that explodes in Earth’s atmosphere and blasts the surface with tiny fragments of rock. Scientists have just recently revealed details of a study that suggests that ice-age animals were exposed to an earth-sighted extra-terrestrial mega-shotgun at least once, between 35,000 and 13,000 years ago.

The discovery came as scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory were pursuing the theory that there was an atmospheric impact around 13,000 years ago. The researchers had found layers of sediment across North America, dating to 13,000 BP, which contain trace amounts of meteorite material, as well as a black layer that may be charcoal from wildfires caused by such an impact. The team assumed, then, that animals living at this time might also display evidence of the event. By sorting through the collection of a fossil trading company, the scientists quickly found a large handful of fossils that did indeed appear to be blasted by meteorite fragments.

The majority of the fossils were Alaskan mammoth tusks, each peppered with 2 – 3 mm wide holes with all the characteristics of high-velocity projectile impacts. The material inside the holes was magnetic, with a high iron-nickel content, and depleted in titanium (suggesting an extra-terrestrial origin). The group also found a Siberian bison skull that had been blasted by meteorite shards, which showed healing over the impact holes (implying that the animal survived the event). The meteorite shards appear to have exploded inside the tusk and bone. That’s pretty cool too.

The odd thing, however, is that these ESETMS (Earth-Sighted Extra-Terres… whatever) fossils all appear to be much older than 13,000 years, each dating to around 35,000 BP. This could imply multiple ESETMS impacts, although the authors of the report are attempting to tie the fossils and the sediment evidence into a single event. It is possible, they argue, that the mammoth tusks could have been blasted long after then animals’ deaths, while emerging from permafrost or exposed on a riverbank. This doesn’t account for the healing of the bison skull (unless it dates from a different period than the tusks), nor does it resolve the wide geographical separation of fossils (Alaska and Siberia are close, but not that close). The article doesn’t bring it up, but I wonder if animal migration might explain the distance between the fossils, especially if the mammoths were killed by the meteorites either (their tusks wouldn’t have healed either way, after all).

Aside from what spectacular fun the mega space shotgun would have been, the theory is interesting in that, depending on the date or dates of the events, it may have played a role in the extinction of ice age mega fauna. The cause of the Pleistocene extinctions (which wiped out mammoths, mastodons, giant sloth, etc) has long been under debate – some argue that climate change was the culprit, some believe that increasingly skilled human hunters were responsible, and others think that a combination of the two is most likely. While these meteorite impacts probably wouldn’t have caused the extinction on their own, as one scientist put it, “You can't imagine it helped the animals having a large meteorite hit the Earth's atmosphere and pellet them with shot.”

Help them survive, no. Help them be even more awesome? Yes.

Nov
08
2007

Toothy find: Three-year-old Caleb Kidd found a wooly mammoth tooth similar to this one earlier this week while playing outside near La Crosse, Wisc.
Toothy find: Three-year-old Caleb Kidd found a wooly mammoth tooth similar to this one earlier this week while playing outside near La Crosse, Wisc.
Who says paleontologists need to have fancy college degrees to find remnants of ancient animals?

A three-year-old boy in La Crosse, Wisc., earlier this week, while chasing squirrels, found a strange rock that turned out to be a wooly mammoth tooth.

And here’s the real odd twist. His grandfather, who was with Caleb Kidd at the time, found a similar mammoth tooth nine years ago.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse have confirmed that it is indeed a mammoth tooth. It weighs about two pounds and has dimensions of six inches by three inches. Researchers figure that it’s between 10,000 and 30,000 years old.

Jul
12
2007

Frozen find: Researchers look over the new find from Siberia of a wooly mammoth baby carcass. A reindeer herder found the frozen specimen while doing is normal rounds.
Frozen find: Researchers look over the new find from Siberia of a wooly mammoth baby carcass. A reindeer herder found the frozen specimen while doing is normal rounds.
Here we go again with another round of Jurassic Park hypotheticals. What’s triggering it? Earlier this spring a reindeer herder in Siberia discovered a fully intact frozen wooly mammoth baby carcass. It’s believed to have been frozen for around 10,000 years since the end of the last ice age.

Other portions of adult mammoths have been found frozen in Siberia. But researchers say that this specimen is the most complete one found to date.

Back in 1997, portions of an adult wooly mammoth were found in another portion of Siberia. Cloning scientists at that time said that they’d be able to have a mammoth/elephant baby hybrid cloned within the next 22 months. So far, however, no dice.

The only significant blemish on the new mammoth discovery is that a portion of its tail is missing. It’s trunk and eyes are intact and some of its fur is still on its torso. It measures just over four feet tall, weighs an estimated 110 pounds and is believed to be about six months old.

Work being done to prepare the carcass to be transferred to Japan for further study. There are some scientists hoping that there could be preserved sperm or other cells with viable DNA that could be used to restart a new version of mammoths.

Researchers are also happy that they – and not others -- have their hands on this new specimen. There’s a growing black market for frozen wooly mammoth artifacts that have been found in Siberia. A one-inch strand of mammoth hair can be sold on the black market for $50.

Mammoths first appeared in the Pliocene Epoch, 4.8 million years ago. And while the species was mostly extinct by the time of the end of last Ice Age 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, one population of mammoths lived on in isolation on Russia's remote Wrangel Island until about 5,000 years ago.

Jun
13
2007

Bad genes: New findings suggest that wooly mammoths may have been victims more of inbreeding and poor genetics than being over hunted by an emerging human population. (Photo by Torontochub27)
Bad genes: New findings suggest that wooly mammoths may have been victims more of inbreeding and poor genetics than being over hunted by an emerging human population. (Photo by Torontochub27)
A new look at old question, the extinction of wooly mammoths, is leading to a new answer.

It was commonly believed that mammoths died about some 12,000 years ago due to over hunting by the growing human population on the planet. But cutting off of the intercontinental bridge between Asia and North America made have been the main culprit.

Paleontologists from England studying the lifecycle of mammoths now believe that inbreeding and a lack of genetic diversity probably played the biggest role in knocking down mammoth populations. Here’s the quick mammoth timeline:

About 150,000 years ago the huge hairy elephants emerged on the scene in Asia. Some of them migrated across to North America over the land bridge that was open at that time between what is now Russia and Alaska.

Warming of the Earth raised ocean levels and cut off that land bridge, creating two distinct herds of mammoths on the each continent. For a brief time around 100,000 years ago, that land bridge came back, and the herds were able to intermingle again, but rising oceans again cut off the two groups.

With fewer genetic improvement options with the limited size of the herds, the mammoths weren’t able to adapt as quickly when another Ice Age hit some 20,000 years ago. They were able to hang on for another 8,000 years or so before becoming extinct.