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A.P. Chekhov, 1890

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)

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 11:39
0
23
EVERYTHING humans do affects nature, and we are a part of nature. The good or bad of it is only in our human opinion.
Space Pirate, Astronomy.FM
30/05/2013 10:08
5
1
Guys let's be honest, Fred is a Moron. Not for the reason of Humans over hunting Mammoths (we can speculate that fact may be true), its more so his conception, that others have pointed out, that we are personally to blame. During this period of time, Mammoths no longer filled their role in the ecosystem. They were no longer a sustainable food source for humans and so they died out, while humans then moved on to an alternate food source. Whenever I hear about animals going extinct in the wild, so what? Keep a few nature reserves/Zoos for our own entertainment purposes and leave it at that. /rant
Roxas, Transverse Town
30/05/2013 09:30
0
8
Mammoths in the snow?!? Who would've guessed?
Nasir Shakouri, Seattle, WA
30/05/2013 09:10
0
4
Hey, how about we not study it, not clone it, not investigate it... We can sit on our arses and spend our valuable time complaining about how we've destroyed everything and are in the process of destroying everything that still exists. Sheesh, get over yourselves... As a species, our genetic code drives us to press FORWARD in every way possible. We may fail, heck, we may even destroy ourselves, but to stand still is against the fabric of our nature. For millenia, we have steadily moved forward. This is one freight train you cannot stop no matter how hard you try... To debate this is self-defeating...
Andy, Houston
30/05/2013 09:02
3
1
Mammoth tacos ,,,,, hellll yeah ..
Augie Rubio , Fresno ca
30/05/2013 08:18
16
1
I don't see how bringing back one mammoth could do any harm. It will be a scientific breakthrough in biology. The things learned from ressurecting a mammoth could save your life one day, so to hell with all the ignorant skeptics.
Awesome, Ontario
30/05/2013 07:33
30
1
I don't see how bringing back one mammoth could do any harm. It will be a scientific breakthrough in biology. The things learned from ressurecting a mammoth could save your life one day, so to hell with all the ignorant skeptics.
What could go wrong?, Toronto
30/05/2013 07:31
0
4
Fred.....what kind of civilization would cause these animals to have become extinct? No building, airconditioning, highways, gas emissions, fertilizer....you name it...did not exist... So...what the heck are YOU talking about.?
Al, Seminole
30/05/2013 06:58
0
2
Fred is not a moron...but apparently you are. One of the theories regarding Woolly Mammoth extinction is the human overkill one...that highly efficient new-to-the-New world hunters wiped out the Mammoth (and other mega-fauna), partly due to New World mega-fauna evolving isolated from humans. Another theory claims climate change led to the extinctions. Both theories probably hold some truth, along with old world diseases being introduced to the new world as the Bering Land Bridge opened during glacial recession. I'm not going to write a thesis paper here, so obviously my statements are simplified. All of this information is readily available on the internet or at the library...a community place where "books" are available for people to borrow and read.
Esteban, Boulder, Colorado
30/05/2013 06:57
4
1
Man is part of nature. I'm so tired of seeing so many self hating humans who think they have to feel bad because humans are the top animal on this planet. We're just doing our thing, like every single species of animal is, we just happen to be a lot more intelligent than they are. Suck to be them.
Bill, Michigan
30/05/2013 06:33
0
2
...soon more of these zombiemonsters wil be walking the earth because of man made global warming, and eorge W Bush
Algore, 1%ville, USA
30/05/2013 05:55
0
10
Jurassic Park was a book first, Sparky. Cite the source, not the derivative. As for Fred's comments, he's clearly one of those people that accept extinction but not evolution. Extinction has a role in the evolutionary process, and many animals have gone extinct due to an inability to thrive and not the intervention, or lack thereof, of humankind. The wooly mammoth is not a contemporary species and will not survive being brought back, to do so is science at it's most arrogant. Until we guarantee the preservation of what we have we should not bring back species that have gone extinct. RAWR, INTERNETS.
Steven, Minneapolis/USA
30/05/2013 05:52
6
2
"Fred is a moron," Fred is not a moron. Woolly Mammoths appear to have gone extinct through a combination of (non-human caused) climate change and (human-caused) over-hunting. If only there were some kind of easily-accessible, global computer network you could fact-check these things on before you go calling other people "idiots."
Erik Even, Los Angeles, CA
30/05/2013 05:33
2
1
"Fred is a moron," Fred is not a moron. Woolly Mammoths appear to have gone extinct through a combination of (non-human caused) climate change and (human-caused) over-hunting. If only there were some kind of easily-accessible, global computer network you could fact-check these things on before you go calling other people "idiots."
Erik Even, Los Angeles, CA
30/05/2013 05:29
1
1

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