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Nature & Environment Woolly Mammoth Blood Recovered from Frozen Carcass: Recreating Extinct Species

Woolly Mammoth Blood Recovered from Frozen Carcass: Recreating Extinct Species

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First Posted: May 30, 2013 07:04 AM EDT
Climate Not to be Blamed For Extinction of Large Mammals
Climate Not to be Blamed For Extinction of Large Mammals (Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

About 10,000 years ago, a woolly mammoth roamed a remote island in the Arctic Ocean. Now, scientists have discovered its remains frozen within the ice. In fact, the body is so well preserved that it has something that could lead to its recreation--blood.

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The fully-grown female mammoth, which was about 50 to 60 years old when it died, has given researchers a wealth of material. It has well-preserved muscle tissue, blood and fur. Yet the blood is the most interesting part of the find; it could eventually lead to recreating the woolly mammoth in a lab.

"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," said Semyon Grigoriev, the head of the expedition, in an interview with Fox News. "Interestingly, the temperature at the time of excavation was -7 to -10 degrees Celsius [19.4 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit]. It may be assumed that the blood of mammoths had some cryoprotective properties."

This blood is key if woolly mammoths are to be brought back from the dead. The idea of bringing back extinct species in a process called "de-extinction" is nothing new. In fact, a conference recently hosted by National Geographic and TEDx discussed the implications of bringing back creatures that have been gone from our planet for thousands of years. What is new, though, is the fact that we actually may be able to accomplish the goal in a few short years.

Now, the new find has given scientists the material they might need. But just because we can bring back a woolly mammoth, does that mean it would truly be a woolly mammoth? The mammoth would essentially be raised by elephants, which could mean that it acts like an elephant rather than a mammoth. In an article in The Guardian, a molecular biologist suggested there was a way to test this possible issue. Use a black rat as the "extinct" DNA donor and then use its genetic cousin, the brown rat, as the surrogate mother. If the created black rat doesn't look and behave like a black rat and instead behaves like a brown rat, scientists may need to rethink the process.

Even if the new find isn't used for bringing back the extinct species, though, it does provide researchers with a wealth of information. More specifically, they hope that at least one living cell has been preserved that they can study. Currently, the scientists have moved samples for study to Yakutsk, capital of the Republic of Sakha. The carcass, on the other hand, is being kept in ice storage on the Siberian mainland, according to the Daily Mail.

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