Scientists Find Blood in 10,000 Year Old Mammoth Remains

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Semyon Grigoriev/Northeastern Federal University via Wired.co.uk

An incredible discovery by scientists from Russia's Northeastern Federal University in Yakutsk could pave the way for mammoth clones. On an expedition to an island north of Siberia, in frigid 14 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, the researchers found the carcass of a 10,000-year-old female mammoth—and it still had liquid blood.

In an interview with Wired, Semyon Grigoriev, chairman of the university's Museum of Mammoths and head of the expedition, said that the blood—which he described as "very dark"— was found "in ice cavities below the belly and when we broke these cavities with a pick, the blood came running out."

Analysis revealed that the beast, which was discovered on one of the Lyakhovsky Islands in the Novosibirsk archipelago, was between 50 and 60 years old when it died. The lower part of the body—including the stomach, lower jaw, and tongue—was embedded in pure ice, while the upper torso and two legs were preserved in the tundra's soil (these remains were gnawed on by both prehistoric and modern predators). The trunk, which scientists said was the worst preserved part of the specimen, was found separately from the body. Scientists believe the mammoth may have been running from predators and fell through the ice.

Gregoriev described fragments of muscle tissue found outside the body as having "a natural red color of fresh meat"; that extraordinary preservation is due to the remains' location in ice, as well as the fact that the carcass didn't thaw and then freeze again. Gregoriev believes the blood was liquid even in the freezing weather because "it can be assumed that the blood of mammoths had some cryo-protective properties."

The scientist told the Siberian Times (which also has more photos) that "we have taken all possible samples: samples of blood, blood vessels, glands, soft tissue, in a word—everything that we could," from the remains. "Luckily we had taken with us on our expedition a special preservative agent for blood." Still, it's not known if the blood contains the cells necessary for cloning. 

The university plans to take a team of international scientists to study the remains this summer.

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May 30, 2013 - 8:00am
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