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Exclusive: The first pictures of blood from a 10,000 year old Siberian woolly mammoth

By Anna Liesowska
29 May 2013

Remarkable images show a test tube blood sample from a female of the long-extinct species.

First ever sample of mammoth's blood was discovered by Siberian researches. Picture: Semyon Grigoriev

Scientists say they have found both blood and muscle tissue - perfectly preserved in the ice - from a Siberian mammoth. 

The blood had dripped out of the giant animal into a natural ice capsule and it represents a dream discovery for researchers.

It comes amid a hotly contested debate on whether scientists should try to recreate the extinct species using DNA, though there now seems little doubt that this WILL happen, and the Russian team from Yakutsk that made the find is working in a partnership with South Korean scientists who are actively seeking to bring the mammoth back to life. 

first ever sample of mammoth's blood Siberia

'We were really surprised to find mammoth blood and muscle tissue,' said Semyon Grigoriev, head of the Museum of Mammoths of the Institute of Applied Ecology of the North at the North Eastern Federal University. Picture: Semyon Grigoriev

The find was made in temperatures of minus 10C on the New Siberian Islands - or Novosibirsk Islands, off the coast of the Republic of Sakha. 

'We were really surprised to find mammoth blood and muscle tissue,' said Semyon Grigoriev, head of the Museum of Mammoths of the Institute of Applied Ecology of the North at the North Eastern Federal University. 

'It is the first time we managed to obtain mammoth blood. No-one has ever seen before how the mammoth's blood flows'. 

He explained: 'The approximate age of this animal is about 10,000 years old. It has been preserved thanks to the special conditions, due to the fact that it did not defrost and then freeze again.

'We suppose that the mammoth fell into water or got bogged down in a swamp, could not free herself and died. Due to this fact the lower part of the body, including the lower jaw, and tongue tissue, was preserved very well. 

'The upper torso and two legs, which were in the soil, were gnawed by prehistoric and modern predators and almost did not survive.'

Despite this, he hails it as 'the best preserved mammoth in the history of paleontology. 

first ever sample of mammoth's blood Siberia

'For now our suspicion is that mammoth blood contains a kind of natural anti-freeze'. Picture: Semyon Grigoriev

The scientists believed from studying her teeth that this mammoth died when she was between 50 and 60 years of age. 

'Of course, we all heard the stories, that indigenous northern people found frozen mammoth meat and fed their dogs with it. However, even if this actually happened, they did not get into hands of scientists. 

'We hope that at least one living cell of the mammoth was preserved, but even in such a good condition of the carcass the chances of this are small.

'Yet it is great luck that the blood preserved and we plan to study it carefully'. 

first ever sample of mammoth's blood Siberia


first ever sample of mammoth's blood Siberia

'We have taken all possible samples: samples of blood, blood vessels, glands, soft tissue, in a word - everything that we could'. Picture: Semyon Grigoriev

'For now our suspicion is that mammoth blood contains a kind of natural anti-freeze.

'In 2010, Canadian researchers compared the DNA of the mammoth and its closest relative the Indian elephant. It turned out that mammoth haemoglobin let go of its oxygen much more readily at cold temperatures.'

With the newly-discovered mammoth 'we have taken all possible samples: samples of blood, blood vessels, glands, soft tissue, in a word - everything that we could. 

'Luckily we had taken with us on our expedition a special preservative agent for blood. 

'We decided that taking the whole carcass by helicopter to Yakutsk would be very dangerous and that we could lose invaluable material because of defrosting. We did not take the risk, and moved the rest of carcass - it weighs about a ton - from the islands to the mainland and put it into an icehouse. 

'In late July - early August, we plan to go there with our foreign colleagues for further researches.'

first ever sample of mammoth's blood Siberia


first ever sample of mammoth's blood Siberia

'We moved the rest of carcass from the islands to the mainland and put it into an icehouse'. Pictures: Semyon Grigoriev

Last year a deal was signed giving South Korean scientists exclusive rights on cloning the woolly mammoth from certain tissue samples found in the Siberian permafrost. Stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk's private bioengineering laboratory confirmed he is poised to make a bid to return the extinct Siberian mammoth to the planet. 

Once the tissues have been treated to a nuclear transfer process, the eggs will be implanted into the womb of a live elephant for a 22-month pregnancy.

Comments (114)

wow i would like to see one in person. how would we take care of it. What can we do with it? Use it at the lab.. not right...
I just leave wear it is. and take care of what remains.
waco texas , bellmead texas USA
31/05/2013 22:25
0
2
A mammoth embryo would have no characteristics of an elephant host. An elephant, as the largest land mammal, is the obvious choice to carry a huge resulting baby mammoth.

I find no great danger in creating a cloned mammoth, if in fact it can be done with only female genetic material; the resulting animals may be short lived. We may also find the mammoth's "natural anti-freeze" causes gestational problems in a sub-Saharan animal, like an elephant. There are definite differences in biology, secondary to evolutionary changes derived from environmental accommodation. We shall see.

We have become a nation of the stupid. We play God every day with fertility issues and advanced medical interventions. Interesting how the religious are eager to "do everything" when their loved ones are at deaths door - essentially enforcing the medical practice of playing God, but are the first to rant and rave at other scientific interventions.

Get it straight, want people to stop "playing God"?, then step back and do nothing the next time you hurry to intervene in a medical crisis. You can't have it both ways without being a hypocrite.

Of course, clear thinking appears to be less and less important with right wing Christianity these days.
Smart Christians Believe in Science, Greer, SC
31/05/2013 21:52
21
1
I'm sure that the discovery will go a long way in aiding South Korea's efforts to clone a mammoth.
Sean, Pittsburgh, PA
31/05/2013 21:07
2
1
As many speeches as human beings have wiped out, it's about time we brought one back.
Mike, Winston-Salem, USA
31/05/2013 19:32
1
1
How much do you think a woolie mammoth fur coat will cost? I would like to be the first kid on my block to get one
Mark R, russia
31/05/2013 14:58
0
11
totalmente de acuerdo contigo contigo Eduardo y lo peor que con el tiempo lo usarian como alimento
M Salazar, New Zealand
31/05/2013 14:57
2
2
为啥给掰坏了?
,
31/05/2013 11:56
3
1
We should do our best to try to bring back to life extinct prehistoric animals of all kinds.
We should be very serious and very careful.
Only the very experts in the field know if we really would be bringing back to life a real mammoth or a mixture of elephant and mammoth.
But I trust the scientific community will be very honest.
Not to be would be against their best interest, of course.
In a few years, with the help of the experts in the field, everybody interested may fully understand the techniques.
One day, with great care and responsibility, we may decide if we should bring back to life the Neanderthals and other close relatives of ours.
At this point I feel it may not be advisable to bring back the Neanderthals (and other relatives) if that is at all possible. It is still not very clear to me.
This process will make us humans more human and we will take better care of our planet than we are taking at this moment the world around.
The next big surprise will be to find extraterrestrial life.
One day we may even find intelligent extraterrestrial life. I hope we will be well prepared for that day.


Gerardo Javier Galvez Arellano, Monterrey, Mexico
31/05/2013 08:37
0
1
What we all want to know is: how does it taste?
Leonardo, Brazil
31/05/2013 08:07
0
2
We are now the creators of the incoming species, We are becoming GOD!!!!
Y_E_S!!!!!!!!
Finally the power of creation is in our HANDS!!!!!! Let´s bring all those species that DIED because of the human kind development......
JHG, MX
31/05/2013 05:41
0
17
You are daring God, it will be like reviving the dead
luis aguirre, mexico
31/05/2013 05:39
0
17
Its ok!! ;)
Ulises Barreiro, Argentina
31/05/2013 04:15
4
1
KennyLLC, South Carolina, USA. Drop the bible and pick up a science book.
Karlos, san antonio TX
31/05/2013 03:47
26
1
LIES OR NOT!!! CONSEQUENCES WILL BE INTERESTING!!!!
BABA, CANADA
31/05/2013 00:19
0
4
Lori: It would be unreal and illogical if these remains were actually fossilized, but that isn't the case. Fossilization is the process through which, under the right conditions, minerals seep into and replace soft tissue over time.

The remains were frozen in ice. That is an ENTIRELY different thing.

Furthermore, if we can find wonderfully preserved soft tissue in dissolved T-Rex fossils that are 76 million years old (do a search for "t-rex soft tissue." Fascinating stuff!), finding preserved mammoth flesh isn't exactly a huge stretch of the imagination.

I do find the still flowing blood, however, quite amazing.
John Beck, Charlotte, NC
30/05/2013 23:56
7
1

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