The prospects of cloned mammoth is nearer after the sensational discovery of 'live cells' from the ancient creatures in northern Siberia.
Scientists working with the remains of Yuka - woolly mammoth, found in Yakutian permafrost. Picture: Gennady Boeskorov
An international team of researchers discovered the unique material in a permafrost mammoth graveyard in Yakutia, also known as the Sakha Republic.
'In a unique location at a depth of about 100 metres we found very precious material to explore. It is soft, fatty tissue, hair, bone marrow of the mammoth' said the director of the Museum of Mammoths of the North-Eastern Federal University, the head of the expedition.
Controversial scientist Hwang Woo-Suk, the head of the South Korean Foundation Sooam Biotech, suggested the 'living' mammoth cells could be used for cloning.
'The expedition also established close ties between scientists from different countries. This data will be published in reputable scientific journals. A detailed film will be seen next year on the National Geographic channel', said a participant.
An agreement on scientific co-operation has been signed by the participants, it is understood.
At the same site last year, scientists found carcasses of mammoths, bison and other prehistoric animals. The latest discovery was hailed as 'very exciting'.
News of the discovery of living cells of the woolly mammoth came as a 'Jurassic Park prize' is being mooted for the first team able to bring an extinct animal back to life.
Steven Spielberg, who directed films based on Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park thrillers about cloning dinosaurs, will be approached to support the prize, said the Sunday Times newspaper in the UK. 'He is fascinated by this stuff,' said a source.
The X Prize Foundation - which offered a prize for private space ventures - is promoting the scheme. Its board includes Larry Page, the co-founder of Google, and Elon Musk, whose Falcon 9 rocket recently reached the International Space Station.
Scientists say mammoths evolved from African elephants when the Ice Age gripped the planet two million years ago.
They are believed to have been around twice the size of today's elephants, and their long tusks helped them fight predators and pick grass and shrubs out of the ice.
Mammoths mostly died out around 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, but it is known some survived in Alaska until around 3750 BC.
The last known surviving mammoths were on Wrangel Island - off the Siberian coast - until around 1650 BC.
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