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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)

Coincidentally, today's TED Talk is about potentially resurrecting wooly mammoths with DNA: http://www.ted.com/talks/hendrik_poinar_bring_back_the_woolly_mammoth.html
Michael McWatters, Brooklyn, NY
30/05/2013 23:45
1
1
Coincidentally, today's TED Talk is about potentially resurrecting wooly mammoths with DNA: http://www.ted.com/talks/hendrik_poinar_bring_back_the_woolly_mammoth.html
Michael McWatters, Brooklyn, NY
30/05/2013 23:45
2
1
This would simply be genetic manipulation. The mammoth would still be part elephant(as if it weren't an elephant with adaptations to begin with), just as the franken-trout is still a salmon.

Funny, atheistic scientists denied the Siberian evidence of "fresh meat" in a discovery from the mid-20th century because religionists touted an "instant-freeze" theory caused by the great flood story of the bible.

Now along comes the internet, and...
KennyLLC, South Carolina, USA
30/05/2013 23:03
0
13
Eggs?
Dans, Canada
30/05/2013 23:03
0
5
Eggs? She may have eggs in ovaries?
Dans, Canada
30/05/2013 23:03
0
3
This would simply be genetic manipulation. The mammoth would still be part elephant(as if it weren't an elephant with adaptations to begin with), just as the franken-trout is still a salmon.
Funny, atheistic scientists denied the Siberian evidence of "fresh meat" in a discovery from the mid-20th century because religionists touted an "instant-freeze" theory caused by the great flood story of the bible.
Now along comes the internet, and...
KennyLLC, South Carolina, USA
30/05/2013 22:56
0
10
I believe this is a great discovery, we could learn a lot from all this, but like anything else. let's be careful what we wish for.. There are so many unknowns in science, we have strains, virus, and diseases that all come with lab testing..
Steveo, Rathdrum, Idaho
30/05/2013 22:53
3
1
Pobre animal como vuelva a la vida y vea como estamos dejando el planeta se muere otra vez,pero esta vez no del frio sino del susto.
Eduard, Spain
30/05/2013 22:37
2
1
A friend of mine, who passed this email on to me, had a great question: Can you imagine how exciting it would be to be able to "rent" a woolly mammoth to give rides at your kid's birthday party? What a hoot!!
Lee Hart, Jacksonville, FL USA
30/05/2013 21:28
0
7
Send it to china where they will manufacture a working Replica :)
Omar, Switzerland
30/05/2013 20:34
2
1
Excuse me, don't you think that cloning is as easy as photocopy? Just put a piece of meat, press the button and, suddenly - live mammoth! This finding means only the years of future work, new discoveries, and maybe, in the distant-distant future the chance for cloning. I doubt whether we all will be still alive. Just think about interesting scientific findings, like natural anti-freeze or something like that
Ksusha, Omsk
30/05/2013 19:25
4
1
I hate this idea. Using an elephant to carry the mammoth foetus will subject her to allsorts of procedures. I imagine the cloned mammoth will live out a lonely existence in some enclosure or other whilst the South Koreans carry out tests on it and reap in the cash for allowing people to view and research 'their creation'.

Why can we not let things be?
Melanie, UK
30/05/2013 15:42
0
5
Let's do this! Can't Hurt! #cloning4good
Wm, Racine USA
30/05/2013 12:11
4
1
I find this story completely unreal and illogical.... truly hard to believe that a fossilized 10,000 TEN THOUSAND yr old anything could have preserved blood vessels. I don't think so. No Way. I bet this will turn out to be some hoax as the Shroud of Turin turned out to be.
Lori Lanner, Atlanta, GA
30/05/2013 11:41
0
9
Yeah...diseases probably killed them off. After all they did travel in packs and there was no medical tech nor humane groups back then to stop the extinction process....If you care lol
Anthony Voss, not here USA
30/05/2013 11:40
0
6

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