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Baby mammoth yields secrets after 40,000 years in Siberian tundra

Published by admin on October 5, 2009


A baby woolly mammoth that died after being sucked into a muddy river bed 40,000 years ago has revealed more prehistoric secrets of how the species survived in its icy habitat.

The mammoth, known as Lyuba, was about a month old when she died in the Siberian tundra, where she remained until she was discovered by reindeer herders three years ago. Her body was so well preserved in the permafrost that her stomach retained traces of her mother’s milk, and scientists identified sediment in her mouth, trunk and throat — suggesting that she suffocated while struggling to free herself from the mud.

The mammoth has taught researchers much about the species that they had been unable to glean from fossils and other less well-preserved finds, including how brown fat cells on the humped back of the head helped to maintain body temperature. The calf, found in the Arctic Yamal peninsula of Russia, weighed about 110lb, and was about the size of a large dog.

Announcing the start of a tour by Lyuba of palaeontology museums, starting at The Field Museum in Chicago next year and ending at the Natural History Museum in 2014, scientists said that she could provide DNA.

The clay-like sediment is believed to have helped to keep Lyuba’s eyes, skin, organs and some fur intact. Scientists are hoping to glean further insights into what caused Ice Age mammals to become extinct 10,000 years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene era.

Daniel Fisher, a Professor of Geological Sciences at the University of Michigan and part of the international team studying the remains, said: “There’s a visceral awe that takes hold of you in looking at a specimen like .”

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SOURCE:   Times Online

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