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Female woolly mammoth gave birth to nine babies: can she have another 28,000 years later?

By Anna Liesowska
03 October 2014

Fresh blood discovery by scientists in remains of extinct creature as experts start research this month in hunt for live cells.

The mammoth remains in a better condition after tens of thousands of years than a dead human after six months - say scientists. Picture: Nikolay Pschennikov, North-Eastern Federal Universtity 

The remains of a mammoth found in May 2013 on Malolyakhovskiy Island have yielded new hope in cloning hopes from the ancient animals, and also some intriguing puzzles. 

One is this: did woolly mammoth blood have a special natural quality that prevented it freezing, as scientists now suspect? Despite a temperature of minus 10C, the blood was liquid. 

Another is: why are the mammoth remains in a better condition after tens of thousands of years than a dead human after six months?

Other new facts on these mammoth remains which, because of the quality of preservation, are crucial to current efforts at cloning, are these: the carcass is some 28,000 years old, according to Dutch experts from Groningen University, some 15,000 years 'younger' than originally believed; and tusk analysis shows that this mammoth died aged between 57 and 67, having given birth no less than nine times.

Rings in the tusk indicate age, as with a tree, while the calcium content decreases with when the animal is pregnant or feeding a baby.

An initial, well-publicised blood sample found from this female mammoth during the excavations of the carcass site is confirmed as genuine - but it has 'degraded'.

However, a new source of blood in the remains - preserved in the permafrost in the Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia - was revealed to the The Siberian Times by Semyon Grigoryev,  Director of the Lazarev Mammoth Museum at Northeastern Federal University in Yakutsk.

'We also have found good blood samples, that we obtained during dissection of the left front leg,' he said. 

Work on examining blood from these 'big vessels' - which came to light during an 'autopsy' of the remains earlier this year - is due to start soon by Russian and Danish scientists, he said. 

EXCLUSIVE: Siberian scientists announce they now have a 'high chance' to clone the extinct woolly mammoth


EXCLUSIVE: Siberian scientists announce they now have a 'high chance' to clone the extinct woolly mammoth

The remains of a mammoth found in May 2013 on Malolyakhovskiy Island. Pictures: Semyon Grigoriev

There is hope that this new source of blood will be more significant than the original.

'We have several samples of blood,' he made clear.

'The first type is a liquid which we got initially, during excavations. It really is blood. Our specialists in the Medicine Institute in Yakutsk have very good equipment and found haemoglobin, white blood cells. So it cannot be some other liquid. Of course, over time, it strongly degraded, but the fact is unique and interesting - we found liquid blood.'

In such cold, they had not expected to find any liquid, and the scientists are now seeking to understand any 'anti-freeze' qualities of the blood.

'We do not connect big hopes with this blood. Some journalists wrongly wrote that if we found blood we can clone. This is not so. There are other interesting questions, like - how it manage to stay liquid? Was there some natural anti-freeze in it?'

He explained: 'I want to underline that according to histologists, some mammoth tissues are preserved better than those of a man who died died months ago. Our common goal is to understand - why is the mammoth's body was so well preserved? 

'What helped this? Perhaps some microorganisms, or the environment? Of course, the main cause is that the carcass was in ice and not mummified, but 28,000 years have gone by. So we need to understand which range of factors helped this preservation. Maybe the mammoths had some special properties.'

Work is due to start this month on seeking to identify live cells, he said. 

Aarhus University, and Lund University, as well as to South Korea for further research.

EXCLUSIVE: Siberian scientists announce they now have a 'high chance' to clone the extinct woolly mammoth


http://siberiantimes.com/science/casestudy/news/exclusive-the-first-pictures-of-blood-from-a-10000-year-old-siberian-woolly-mammoth/

'The first type is a liquid which we got initially, during excavations. It really is blood.' Pictures: Semyon Grigoriev

The spur for the studies of the mammoth remains, with a view to cloning, has come from South Korean scientists, but Grigoriyev stressed that local Yakutian experts are closely involved in the research, as are specialists from many countries.

'We will search and allocate live cells here, we will work with lots of (biological) material here. There could be nothing there, of course, but if we find some living cells, we will pass the samples to the Koreans and they will work further on cloning. 

'We are determined  too get the experience and to do big part of work by ourselves.'

Geneticist Natalia Oreshkova, of the Siberian Federal University in Krasnoyark, revealed that significant progress has been made in genome sequencing of the woolly mammoth, one of 16 separate directions of research currently underway into the ancient creature. 

'I gathered all the samples that I could - from the trunk, femur and humerus. We found very good DNA from the humerus, for example,' she told The Siberian Times.

'At the first sight DNA seemed good. We isolated rather large fragments. When we started to work with them it turned out that the DNA was very unstable, it started to crumble during our work.' 

Despite this, she remains optimistic of significant advances as other Russian experts join the research. 

Natalia Oreshkova the geneticists from Krasnoyarsk

Geneticist Natalia Oreshkova, of the Siberian Federal University in Krasnoyark. Picture: The Siberian Times

'I agreed on co-operation with the Southern Federal University in Rostov-on-Don,' she revealed. They have good equipment and are rather experienced in work with ancient DNA from bones.

'They have developed methods, and qualified staff. We will share our results later. And I think the first results of our work will be announced before the New Year.

'In general it is supposed that we will set up the whole mammoth's genome as a result. 

'Previously there were attempts to set up mammoth's genome, and mitochondrial DNA too, but we think that given the quality of our material, we can be more complete.' 

Scientists earlier said that the blood also reveals an unnatural death, with the creature in distress, possibly from falling into an ice hole from which she could not escape. 

If and when experiments begin, an elephant will be the surrogate mother, enabling the species to be brought back from the dead.

EXCLUSIVE: Siberian scientists announce they now have a 'high chance' to clone the extinct woolly mammoth


EXCLUSIVE: Siberian scientists announce they now have a 'high chance' to clone the extinct woolly mammoth

Mammoth remains have undergone a unique autopsy in Yakutsk. Pictures: Nikolay Pschennikov, Michil Yakovlev, North-Eastern Federal Universtity 

Mammoths disappeared from Siberia at the end of the Pleistocene period some 10,000 years ago in circumstances that are a matter of scientific debate.

Climate change and hunting by humans may have been factors. An isolated population of the creature survived on Wrangel Island until around 4,000 years ago.

Comments (10)

What if we accidentally bring back an ancient disease we have no immunity to?
Naomi, U.K.
23/02/2015 02:22
1
6
Is it a good idea to play god,,I think not,,how would it be if we had meat eating dinosaurs running around,,,mother nature should be the only way, but who am I to say, I'm just one
Reg'z, Canada
30/01/2015 10:37
0
3
we need to right the wrong, us humans are pathetic in causing such mass extictions and blaming it on other things like habitat loss, that we also caused by cutting down trees, writers write,what are we to gain? why do we have to gain anything? is that the only reason to bring them back..so that we can gain, truth is we have alot to gain..the passenger pigeons is another example , 150 yrs ago there were milions of them, they were hunted to the very last one..very sad...do the math.were killing the planet..
tony, boston ma
15/11/2014 22:56
2
5
we need to right the wrong, us humans are pathetic in causing such mass extictions and blaming it on other things like habitat loss, that we also caused by cutting down trees, writers write,what are we to gain? why do we have to gain anything? is that the only reason to bring them back..so that we can gain, truth is we have alot to gain..the passenger pigeons is another example , 150 yrs ago there were milions of them, they were hunted to the very last one..very sad...do the math.were killing the planet..
tony, boston ma
15/11/2014 22:51
2
5
I would love to see some of these extinct species cloned however, there should be strict guidelines that no cloned animal should be killed for the sake of science unless to prevent suffering due to disease or birth defects. If they want to bring them back to just kill a couple and cut them open to study them then I don't want them to do that.

Siberia looks beautiful. Reminds me of where I lived in Alaska.
OutBackJack, Buzzards Breath, Wyoming, USA
04/11/2014 09:35
4
1
Ah...Bejesus...will you leave her "Rest in Peace"!


Bejesus = Irish slang for annoyance, dismay, or anger.
jojnjo, Dublin
26/10/2014 10:19
0
3
@ Rickie

Humans have caused a number of species to become extinct. I am all for correcting our blunders, and using science as a tool to do so. I suspect that they're working with mammoths because they're so incredibly popular, even with non-scientists, and there is the potential to be successful. Plus, science learns from science. Work that these people do will be a building block for future scientists. The more we understand about genetics, the more we understand about ourselves, and the better prepared we are to use that science to ease the suffering of live humans. But, science costs money. If you can keep the public interested, they're going to be ok with funding it. The existing cloned animals are hardly tormented. You can order a clone of your pet.
Robin, California
18/10/2014 08:56
4
0
First, I want to say that I have no formal education and am quite puzzled and leery about cloning such animals. What will we (humanity) gain from it? I would like to know what would happen to these animals if we do begin the cloning. Am I wrong in assuming they will most likely be kept for scientific research and not live a quiet, painless existence? Why subject a living being to such experimentation? Other than 'bragging rights' I don't understand why.
Rickie, Florida US
12/10/2014 19:56
8
2
Exciting ! Well this female woolly mammoth did evertything in her power to keep the species alive ,she had nine calves. Some of course could have been twins so it's difficult to guess over what period of her life time ,
It does make you wonder at such a steady breeding rate ,why did these wolly mammoths become extinct ?
a question that still hasn't been answered scientifically today ,
Though it's great to get these blood samples DNA ,maybe we should ask WHY couldn't they survive on this planet in the first instance?, It could have easily been a new virus that was introduced into their area by man or a new animal. ie some form of rabies etc etc
A lot of ifs and maybes' da da so many unknowns. Keep going and good luck .
Patrick Travers, Perth Australia
04/10/2014 12:08
4
1
Check living species of arctic mammals especially extreme cold adapted herbivores like musk ox for antifreeze in their blood.If the musk ox and other extreme cold adapted mammals have antifreeze in their body,than that means they like the woolly mammoth and probably others like the woolly rhino got it from their diet !
Dustin Munro, Ottawa,Ontario Canada
04/10/2014 04:07
9
1
1

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