Russian scientists have discovered the extraordinarily well-preserved body of a 10,000-to-15,000-year-old mammoth on an island in the Arctic Ocean. Not only is the mammoth one of the most well-preserved prehistoric specimens ever found, but the animal was so well kept that blood flowed freely from its body when investigated by the scientists.
The expedition from Russia’s North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk discovered the female mammoth as part of a joint paleontological expedition with the Russian Geographic Society on the Novosibirsk archipelago located in Siberia. When the team examined the mammoth, they noticed blood “running out” of the body. The mammoth may be a key link in scientists’ ability to clone long-dead animals from DNA samples.
"This is the most astonishing case in my entire life," Semyon Grigoriev, the head of the expedition and chairman of the Mammoth Museum in Yakutsk, said in an interview with AFP. "How was it possible for it to remain in liquid form? And the muscle tissue is also red, the colour of fresh meat."
Grigoriev says the free-flowing blood makes this one of the most well-preserved prehistoric mammals of all time. “The fragments of muscle tissues, which we’ve found out of the body, have a natural red color of fresh meat. The reason for such preservation is that the lower part of the body was underlying in pure ice, and the upper part was found in the middle of tundra. We found a trunk separately from the body, which is the worst-preserved part,” he said in an NEFU press release.
“The blood is very dark, it was found in ice cavities below the belly, and when we broke these cavities with a poll pick, the blood came running out,” Grigoriev continued.
According to AFP, the North-Eastern Federal University signed a contract with South Korean cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-Suk last year. In 2005, Hwang, who works at South Korea’s Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, became the first person to clone a dog. With the discovery of this well-preserved mammoth specimen, Hwang may be able to take the first steps toward cloning an extinct mammal.
Still, Hwang’s reputation isn’t as strong as it was in past years. In 2011, he was convicted of embezzling research funds and illegally buying human eggs for research, though he was cleared of fraud, CBS reports.