Mammoths

Yithian

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Homo Aves said:
I apologise for being so cynical about the Dinosaura, I will confess they are not my favorite genera of prehistoric animal...

But why so few mammoth skulls? there are plenty of other bits and pieces around.

No probs. I just like moaning mate. :)

Anyway, why so few? Perhaps there could be an elephant's graveyard scenario going on and we've just yet to hit the jackpot so to speak. On another approach tht's one hell of a lot of fossil remains to stay in tact over the years and something that size would, no doubt, be extremely suscepible to carrion in the days/weeks after death - it'd stink and attract feeders for miles...
 

Melf

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psssst. wanna buy a "new" mammoth mate? :D
 

Timble2

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It makes a change from leaves on the line...........

Didn't want to do an 'Emperor' ;) and create a one post thread so this looked like the best place for it, though it's not actually a mammoth but another type of long gone European elephant. Looks a big beastie from the bones

At:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/3821527.stm

Stone Age elephant remains found


The skeleton was found at the site a new station
Construction work on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) in Kent has unearthed the remains of a 400,000-year-old elephant.
The skeleton was found on the site of the new Ebbsfleet station, an area thought to be an early Stone Age site.

Bones from other large animals, including rhinoceros, buffalo and wild horses, have also been found nearby.

The remains were preserved in muddy sediment near what was once the edge of a small lake, a spokesman said.


The elephant, which has been identified as a straight-tusked Palaeoloxodon antiquus, would have been twice the size of the largest modern African elephant.

The skeleton was also found with a number of flint tools surrounding it, indicating that it was probably slaughtered by humans.

Dr Francis Wenban-Smith of the University of Southampton, who made the discovery, said: "Only a handful of other elephant remains have been found in Britain and none of these give any indication of human exploitation.

"It is hard to imagine early humans successfully hunting a healthy specimen, but if it was already trapped in the bog, it could have been killed by early humans with wooden spears and then butchered for its meat with flint tools."
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Did a bit of merging to make a mammoth (and ancient elephant thread) - see also some discussion about late surviving pygmy mammoths here:

http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=952

---------------------------
Mystery of longest surviving mammoths

Tim Radford, science editor
Thursday June 17, 2004
The Guardian

In China, farmers had begun to plant rice. The first orange groves were bearing fruit in India, the North Africans had domesticated the cat and large communities in Mesopotamia had begun to rear cattle, keep accounts and use tokens. Across the Atlantic, settlers in the Tehuacan valley of Mexico already grew corn, squash, beans and peppers and in Neolithic Britain hunters speared salmon, gathered hazel nuts and made huts covered with hide. In Thessaly, Crete and the Cyclades, the earliest Greeks had begun to cultivate wheat, barley and lentils.

And on an island in the Bering Sea, a family of stranded woolly mammoths clung on, oblivious to their species' extinction everywhere else.

Dale Guthrie, an Arctic biologist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, reports in Nature today that although mammoths vanished from Siberia and the American Arctic before the end of the ice age, they survived on St Paul Island in the Bering Straits as late as 7,900 years ago. Wiped out everywhere else by climate change and stone-age hunters, the mammoths became stranded on the island as sea levels began to rise 13,000 years ago. A similar group of mammoths is known to have survived for at least as long on Wrangel Island off the north coast of Siberia.

Dr Guthrie used radiocarbon evidence to date a fossil fragment of a mammoth tooth. The puzzle is: if humans had hunted the great beasts to extinction elsewhere, how did some mammoth clans cling on.

"Why did they not find and kill off mammoths on St Paul?" he writes. "Mammoths on that earlier island complex at 13,000 years before the present would have been easily visible in a treeless landscape, when St Paul was separated from the mainland by a narrow channel, in the most likely path of coastal watercraft colonists."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1240442,00.html

Emps
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Japan 2005 Expo to display frozen mammoth


Associated Press
October 19, 2004

Shuttle buses without drivers, trains floating on magnetic fields and other visions of the future will be on display at Japan's world fair next year. But Expo 2005's centerpiece will be rooted deep in the past -- the frozen remains of a woolly mammoth.

The beast's nearly intact head, tusks and a front leg were excavated from the Siberian tundra in June, and Expo organizers plan to put them on display in a laboratory with a gallery so visitors can watch as scientists conduct tests.

"We want people to look at the future by starting with a perspective of the past," says Naoki Suzuki, the Japanese scientist overseeing the exhibit, which goes on display next March outside Nagoya, nearly 170 miles west of Tokyo.

For visitors, one of the biggest thrills will be viewing what experts say is the most intact mammoth head recovered in centuries.

Scientists, meanwhile, hope the preserved remains will yield clues to one of the great mysteries about woolly mammoths: why they became extinct some 10,000 years ago.

Researchers armed with a subfreezing lab and state-of-the-art equipment plan to use advanced X-ray technology to peer inside the mammoth's head by generating a 3-D map of its brain.

They will also examine muscle tissue to figure out how mammoths walked; study rocks, pollen and plants caught in the animal's fur and at the excavation site; cut into the tusks to determine the animal's age, what it ate and whether it was ill; and look for DNA in tissue to answer questions about disease and viruses.

"We can reconstruct details of the animal's life, such as its diet, its health history and the climate it encountered," says Daniel Fisher, a curator at the University of Michigan's Museum of Paleontology who is in charge of analyzing the tusks.

Mammoths first appeared in Africa as much as 4 million years ago, and they roamed the plains of Siberia for nearly 2 million years before suddenly dying off 10 millenniums ago. Scientists remain divided over the cause of the mammoths' extinction, with theories pointing at human hunters, a killer disease or climate change.

For more than two centuries, mammoth remains have been turning up in the Russian tundra above the Arctic Circle. The Expo's mammoth was excavated north of the town of Yakutsk, about 3,100 miles east of Moscow.

Until now, crude technologies have thwarted scientists' attempts to salvage soft tissue that might tell more about the giant beasts. Paleontologists normally thaw frozen mammoth remains with hair dryers, which can destroy muscle, organs and skin, leaving a parched fossil.

Doing that to the Expo mammoth might squander a rare opportunity.

When researchers excavated the remains, they were astonished to find an entire head, wrapped in skin and hair and with both tusks. An attached ear and eyelid made it appear "as if it had just fallen asleep," says Suzuki, a paleontologist and computer-imaging expert at Jikei University in Tokyo.

"It's the closest to a perfect specimen of a mammoth's head we have seen in the last 200 years," he says.

Though little of the mammoth's hindsection remained, the scientists found its right front leg with flesh and joints. Bones from its shoulder, back and ribcage were scattered nearby.

Working with Dutch paleontologist Dick Mol, French Arctic explorer Bernard Buiges, Alexei Tikhonov of Russia's Zoological Institute and other mammoth experts, Suzuki wants to keep the mammoth frozen for experiments and avoid slicing it up.

"Nowadays, you can view internal body parts without cutting anything," he says.

Instead of dissection, they will rely on X-ray scans, powerful computers with 3-D technology and minimally invasive surgical techniques normally used on humans.

Much is still unanswered about the project, including how much of Expo's .7 billion budget will go to the mammoth exhibit. The remains are still in Russia and it's uncertain when they will arrive.

Ross MacPhee, a curator at New York's American Museum of Natural History who is on the research team, says the head scans could show blood vessels, nerves and other brain tissue that are difficult to dissect.

Though computer images are no substitute for actual tissue, they may help paleontologists settle a dispute about whether mammoths and elephants are family members or cousins, MacPhee says.

But he cautions that the tissues may be dried out after millennia of lying in ice.

If there is no moisture left, "keeping (the mammoth) frozen while scanning will retard mold formation but it will not enhance structure," MacPhee says.

http://mdn.mainichi.co.jp/features/index.html
 

Quake42

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I seem to recall reading something years ago which suggested that mammoths may have clung on until early modern times in remote parts of Siberia. Apparently there is some hunter's account of finding "woolly elephants" in the 1600s or thereabouts, well before people would have known about the prehistoric mammoth.

Can anyone remember seeing anything similar?
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Quake: The pygmy mammoth survived on islands in the far North until relatively recently (in geological time i.e. around 2,000 BC) but most other mammoths died out before the last glacial maximum:

http://packrat.aml.arizona.edu/Journal/v37n1/vartanyan.html

That said some of the claims for anonmalous elephants have suggested they might have some characteristics - there was that documentary on the hunt for one that was on a few years ago but I don't think anyone has found anything conclusive.
 

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Mammoth cave yields most recent animals

Mammoth cave yields most recent animals
Alaskan island proves stronghold for mammoths in North America.
Alexandra Witze


Archaeologists have unearthed the most recent remains of a mammoth yet discovered in North America. The bones, found in a cave on Alaska's remote Pribilof Islands, may represent the last bastion of the giant animals, or megafauna, that once freely roamed the continent.

The discovery underscores the fact that megafaunal species often seem to have made their last stand on isolated islands, sheltered from the danger of hunting. Some say the fact that such animals survived longer when beyond the reach of humans is proof that mankind was a big factor in driving the beasts to extinction.

We couldn't believe it at first.

Kristine Crossen
University of Alaska, Anchorage



The bones date to around 5,700 radiocarbon years ago - at least 2,200 years younger than any other known North American mammoth, says Kristine Crossen, a geologist at the University of Alaska in Anchorage. She reported her team's findings this week at a meeting of the Geological Society of America in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Bags of bones




The cave opens to a simple hole in the tundra, which Kristine Crossen descends by ladder

© Douglas Veltre of the University of Alaska, Anchorage.

In 1999, hunters on St Paul Island literally stumbled across the cave: a 12-metre-deep pit in the Arctic tundra. Seeing a wealth of bones, they alerted university archaeologists Douglas Veltre and David Yesner. The team launched an expedition in 2003 to gather as much as they could from the sticky mud in the cave, which they named Qagnax, the native Aleut word for 'bone'.

In the course of a week, the researchers picked up more than 1,750 bones- most of them belonging to foxes that had fallen in and couldn't get out, says Crossen. But among the other animal bones were seven pieces of a mammoth, including two complete teeth.

The team dated the bones using different techniques at two separate laboratories. "We couldn't believe it at first," says Crossen.

Die hard




One of the mammoth teeth found in the cave.

© Douglas Veltre of the University of Alaska, Anchorage.

Mammoths died out on mainland Alaska around 11,500 radiocarbon years ago, the end of the Pleistocene epoch. But they are known to have lived longer elsewhere. Last year, other mammoth remains on St Paul Island were reported to be 7,900 radiocarbon years old1. And on Wrangel Island, off Siberia, their remains have been found dating as recently as 3,700 years ago.

Most of these island mammoths, including the St Paul animals, were smaller than normal - just 10% of the normal size range for a mammoth, says Crossen. The animals may have shrunk in size as the island itself shrank, losing ground as sea levels rose after the end of the last ice age.

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Humans didn't arrive on St Paul Island until the late eighteenth century, so the mammoths must have become extinct from natural causes, experts say.

Archaeologists continue to debate the "overkill" theory, which holds that the first humans to arrive in North America hunted the continent's megafauna to extinction.

http://www.nature.com/news/2005/051017/ ... 17-15.html

References
Guthrie R.D., et al. Nature, 429. 746 - 749 (2004).
 

Pte_ri

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Kondoru said:
But why so few mammoth skulls? there are plenty of other bits and pieces around.

In a word - Ivory. While other sub-fossil animal remains would have been of little value to our ancestors, Mammoth ivory was as valuable as the elephantine variety, and a lot safer to obtain! Most easily accessible skulls will therefore have been found and destroyed by ivory 'miners'. I believe that mammoth ivory used to be a significant Siberian export (though as I first learned this from 'Biggles: Charter Pilot' I'll not swear to its absolute veracity).
 

PeniG

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Pte ri, Biggles is correct - mammoth ivory is legal in places where elephant and walrus ivory are not, because all mammoth ivory is fossil ivory and taking it endangers no species; therefore, it a mammoth skull is a potentially lucrative find.

I believe my source is Lister, The Call of Distant Mammoths, but I'm lousy at tracking references that aren't actually in my hand.

This sometimes leads to elephant ivory being labeled as mammoth ivory, but that just goes to show that making a well-intentioned law is not enough.
 

James_H

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Quake42 said:
Apparently there is some hunter's account of finding "woolly elephants" in the 1600s or thereabouts, well before people would have known about the prehistoric mammoth.
People would have known about the prehistoric mammoth from samples frozen near the surface of the ice (sometimes fresh enough that dogs would feed on them) without necessarily knowing they were prehistoric.
 

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Scientists rebuild part of woolly mammoth's genome



In a world first, German scientists say they have reconstructed a key sequence in the genome of the woolly mammoth, enabling them to show that the extinct beast's closest modern relative is the Asian elephant.

Reporting online Sunday in Nature, the British science journal, the researchers say they devised a new technique for the feat, teasing out DNA from just 200 milligrams (0.007 of an ounce) of bone found at a mammoths' graveyard in the Siberian permafrost.

Their technique, called multiplex polymerase chain reaction, copied 46 chunks of sequence, which were rearranged to give a picture of the creature's mitochondrial DNA.

The mitochondria are an internal part of a cell that is the cell's power supply.

Mitochondrial DNA is handed down through the maternal line, and is a relatively stable genetic sequence -- it changes little from generation to generation, and at a measurable rhythm.

This makes mitochondrial DNA a useful "molecular clock" that can be wound backwards into time, to see how a species evolved.

By comparing the sequence with that of modern animals, scientists can spot when and where species diverged from their common ancestor.

In this case, the closest relative today to Mammuthus primigenius is the Asian elephant rather than the African elephant, the researchers say.

The difference, though, is not great.

African elephants branched away from the mammoth's evolutionary tree around six million years ago. Asian elephants followed suit around only 440,000 years later.

That timeline of divergence is intriguingly close to that of gorillas, chimps and humans in how they branched out from the primates' family tree.

The mammoth team was led by Michael Hofreiter of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig.

Previous efforts to recover pre-Ice Age species have run into the predictable problem of retrieving material that has not rotted after 10,000 years or more in the permafrost.

Until now, little more than 1,000 base pairs -- the "letters" on the DNA code which make up the chemical recipe for making and sustaining life -- have been coaxed out of these frozen samples. The previous maximum was 1,600 base pairs.

But by using their new approach to gently amplify the ancient DNA, Hofreiter's team were able to get 5,000 base pairs, even though their sample, too, was degraded.

Woolly mammoths once roamed far and wide across the northern reaches of Eurasia and North America, but no trace of them survives beyond the end of the last Ice Age, some 11,000 years ago.

Their heavy layers of fat, their long brown top hair and thick woolly undercoat were superb for bitter cold but left them ill-equipped for a warmer climate and the rise of Homo sapiens.

They are among the best-researched animals of the Ice Age, thanks to the preservation of carcasses in frozen ground and the pictures of the creatures made by Stone Age artists in European caves.

The bone used in the latest research came from the banks of the Berelekh River in Yakutia, where thousands of bones, belonging to some 160 mammoths, have been recovered.


http://www.physorg.com/news9158.html
 

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Published online: 6 July 2006; |
doi:10.1038/news060703-14

Mammoths get lighter
DNA analysis says there were probably woolly blondes.

Michael Hopkin


You might call them the Marilyn Monroes of the mammoth world. An analysis of 43,000-year-old DNA from these prehistoric creatures suggests that some of them were blondes.

Textbook pictures of woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) typically depict the shaggy beasts sporting a coat of brown hair. But they probably came in a range that also featured lighter browns and auburns, the study suggests.

Some naturalists already suspected that a few mammoths might have been blonde. Hairs found buried in the frozen tundra, where the creatures lived until their extinction some 3,500 years ago, come in range of different shades. "But we didn't know if it was genetic or just a result of being in the ground for tens of thousands of years," says Michael Hofreiter of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who led the research.

Rather than studying the hair itself, he and his colleagues turned to ancient mammoth bone to solve the conundrum. They took samples from a 43,000-year-old bone found in Siberia, and extracted the portion of DNA containing a key pigmentation gene, Mc1r.

Most mammalian genes are present in two copies - one from each parent. Hofreiter and his team found that this mammoth's two copies of Mc1r differed slightly. And when they investigated the proteins produced by the two versions, they discovered that one functions far better than the other in producing brown pigment. They publish the results in this week's Science1.

Blonde minority

The more effective version of the gene is responsible for richly pigmented brown hair, the researchers suggest. The weaker version probably produces lighter brown, blonde or reddish shades.

The researchers knew which gene to look for because all mammals possess versions of the Mc1r gene, Hofreiter explains. A single copy of the strongly acting version is enough to create brown hair, which is why natural blondes are in the minority in humans; ordinarily it takes two copies of the weaker version to give lighter shades. Mutations in the gene are associated with lack of pigment; rare blond versions versions of the American black bear can attribute their distinctive looks to defects in the same gene.

With one copy of each version, the 43,000-year-old mammoth in this study was probably a brunette. Samples from three more mammoths also failed to find one that would have been blonde. But the fact that the 'blonde gene' was present in the population gives credence to the theory that light-coloured hairs found in the ice genuinely reflect their owners' coat colours.

Spot the mammoth

It is impossible to say, without unearthing a fully preserved mammoth, whether they would have been uniform in colour or whether patterns of different hair colours mdash; from spots to stripes mdash; were possible. It is also unclear whether blonde or brown mammoths would have enjoyed a natural advantage, although it seems unlikely given that they had little need for camouflage.

More important, Hofreiter suggests, was the thickness of the mammoth's hairy coat in protecting against the icy tundra weather. "It would maybe have been icy and snowy, and certainly very cold," he says.


References
Römpler H., et al. Science, 313. 62 (2006).


Story from [email protected]:
http://news.nature.com//news/2006/060703/060703-14.html
 

PeniG

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"My" mammoths are Columbian, not woolly, and I gave them sparse reddish-brown hair. The one that my heroine gets eye-to-eye with in a tree has a blue eye. I'm not sure why. She just did.

At one point during the obsessive-compulsive research phase, when my mind was constantly laboring to convert raw data into workable story setting, I said out of the blue to my husband: "What do you think of pinto mammoths?"

He replied: "I think you should make them gold with white blazes and call them Paleominos."

(If you don't get that joke, ask Leaferne.)
 

James_H

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Leaferne...
 

George_millett

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Its a very bad joke refering to Palomino horses.

Thanks for reminding me of them thoug Penig, the next D&D character I create will probably have one.
 

PeniG

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You've gotta admit, it'd be a sight - a herd of mammoths up to 18' high at the shoulder, doing the floppy run (that's an elephant gallop and a sight to see itself) across the Texas plains, gleaming golden in the sunlight...

It could happen. All you need is the proper sexual selection process - breeding females deciding that golden, or spotted, or for that matter striped, males are enough sexier than their monochrome or dull brown counterparts.

As for the quality of the joke, I defy anybody here to do better when confronted with a contextless remark like mine when you're cruising along on autopilot contemplating which turnoff you need and whether that idiot behind you is going to brake in time or not.
 

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From The Times:

Mammoths may roam again after 27,000 years
By Mark Henderson, Science Editor



BODIES of extinct Ice Age mammals, such as woolly mammoths, that have been frozen in permafrost for thousands of years may contain viable sperm that could be used to bring them back from the dead, scientists said yesterday.
Research has indicated that mammalian sperm can survive being frozen for much longer than was previously thought, suggesting that it could potentially be recovered from species that have died out.



Several well-preserved mammoth carcasses have been found in the permafrost of Siberia, and scientists estimate that there could be millions more.

Last year a Canadian team demonstrated that it was possible to extract DNA from the specimens, and announced the sequencing of about 1 per cent of the genome of a mammoth that died about 27,000 years ago.

With access to the mammoth’s genetic code, and with frozen sperm recovered from testes, it may be possible to resurrect an animal that is very similar to a mammoth.

The mammoth is a close genetic cousin of the modern Asian elephant, and scientists think that the two may be capable of interbreeding.

The frozen mammoth sperm could be injected into elephant eggs, producing offspring that would be 50 per cent mammoth.

The suggestion that it may be possible to recreate an animal that is at least part-mammoth has emerged from a study of mice by Japanese, British and American scientists.

While many types of mammalian sperm, including that of humans, can be preserved by freezing, mouse sperm is vulnerable to damage that can limit its ability to fertilise eggs when it is thawed.

A team led by Narumi Ogonuki of the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research Bioresource Centre in Tsukuba, central Japan, has demonstrated that sperm better survives freezing if testes, or whole mouse bodies, are frozen.

Even sperm taken from mouse bodies that had been frozen 15 years ago was capable of fertilising mouse eggs and producing pups, the researchers found.

The work has technical implications for the breeding of laboratory mice for medical research, but it also shows in principle that mammalian sperm can survive in a body that has been frozen for several years.

This could mean that it is able to survive in similar fashion over much longer periods, as in mammoths frozen in permafrost.

“Restoration of extinct species could be possible if male individuals are found in permafrost,” Dr Ogonuki said.

“If sperm of extinct mammalian species, for example the woolly mammoth, can be retrieved from animal bodies that were kept frozen for millions of years in permanent frost, live animals might be restored by injecting them into oocytes [eggs] from females of closely related species.”

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0, ... 60,00.html
 

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Baby mammoth discovery unveiled
By Paul Rincon
Science reporter, BBC News

A baby mammoth unearthed in the permafrost of north-west Siberia could be the best preserved specimen of its type, scientists have said.

The frozen carcass is to be sent to Japan for detailed study.

The six-month-old female calf was discovered on the Yamal peninsula of Russia and is thought to have died 10,000 years ago.

The animal's trunk and eyes are still intact and some of its fur remains on the body.

Mammoths are an extinct member of the elephant family. Adults often possessed long, curved tusks and a coat of long hair.

The 130cm (4ft 3ins) tall, 50kg Siberian specimen dates to the end of the last Ice Age, when the great beasts were vanishing from the planet.

It was discovered by a reindeer herder in May this year. Yuri Khudi stumbled across the carcass near the Yuribei River, in Russia's Yamal-Nenets autonomous district.

Missing tail

Last week, an international delegation of experts convened in the town of Salekhard, near the discovery site, to carry out a preliminary examination of the animal.

"The mammoth has no defects except that its tail was bit off," said Alexei Tikhonov, deputy director of the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a member of the delegation.

"In terms of its state of preservation, this is the world's most valuable discovery," he said.

Larry Agenbroad, director of the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs research centre in South Dakota, US, said: "To find a juvenile mammoth in any condition is extremely rare." Dr Agenbroad added that he knew of only three other examples.

Some scientists hold out hope that well preserved sperm or other cells containing viable DNA could be used to resurrect the mammoth.

Despite the inherent difficulties, Dr Agenbroad remains optimistic about the potential for cloning.

"When we got the Jarkov mammoth [found frozen in Taimyr, Siberia, in 1997], the geneticists told me: 'if you can get us good DNA, we'll have a baby mammoth for you in 22 months'," he told BBC News.

Lucrative trade

That specimen failed to yield DNA of sufficient quality, but some researchers believe it may only be a matter of time until the right find emerges from Siberia.

Bringing mammoths back from the dead could take the form of injecting sperm into the egg of a relative, such as the Asian elephant, to try to create a hybrid.

Alternatively, scientists could attempt to clone a pure mammoth by fusing the nucleus of a mammoth cell with an elephant egg cell stripped of its DNA.

But Dr Agenbroad warned that scientifically valuable Siberian mammoth specimens were being lost to a lucrative trade in ivory, skin, hair and other body parts.

The city of Yakutsk in Russia's far east forms the hub for this trade.

Local people are scouring the Siberian permafrost for remains to sell on, and, according to Dr Agenbroad, more carcasses could be falling into the hands of dealers than are finding their way to scientists.

Japan transfer

"These products are primarily for collectors and it is usually illicit," he explained.

"Originally it was for ivory, now it is everything. You can now go on almost any fossil marketing website and find mammoth hair for $50 an inch. :shock: It has grown beyond anyone's imagination."

Dr Agenbroad added: "Russia says that any mammoth remains are the property of the Russian government, but nobody really pays attention to that."

The Yamal mammoth is expected to be transferred to Jikei University in Tokyo, Japan, later this year.

A team led by Professor Naoki Suzuki will carry out an extensive study of the carcass, including CT scans of its internal organs.

Mammoths first appeared in the Pliocene Epoch, 4.8 million years ago.

What caused their widespread disappearance at the end of the last Ice Age remains unclear; but climate change, overkill by human hunters, or a combination of both could have been to blame.

One population of mammoths lived on in isolation on Russia's remote Wrangel Island until about 5,000 years ago.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6284214.stm
 

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I remember reading somewhere years ago that an egyptian wall painting showing some gifts being given to one of the early Pharoahs "quite clearly shows a juvenile mammoth". I can't remember exactly where I read it though. Anyone got any Ideas?
 

rynner2

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Mammoth tusk found by youngsters

The tusk of a Woolly Mammoth which had lain undisturbed for thousands of years has been unearthed by children playing on a beach in East Yorkshire.

The youngsters found what they first thought was "a piece of wood", but experts later confirmed it to be a tusk between 12,000 and 75,000 years old.

The children were on a family day out at Spurn Point nature reserve when they made the discovery.

A palaeontologist at Hull University confirmed the tusk's authenticity.

The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, which runs the Spurn Point nature reserve, said some visitors to the reserve had noticed the tusk earlier, but had "dismissed it as rubbish".

The children who unearthed the tusk from the sands then contacted the warden, Andrew Gibson, with their parents and he made the initial identification.

University of Hull palaeontologist Peter Holken then confirmed the tusk had come from a Woolly Mammoth and agreed it was thousands of years old.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/humber/7346534.stm

Spurn Point is basically a sand spit which has moved around a lot in historical times, so I wonder how this tusk got there... :?
 

rynner2

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Mammoths survived late in Britain
By Paul Rincon
Science reporter, BBC News

Woolly mammoths lived in Britain as recently as 14,000 years ago, according to new radiocarbon dating evidence.

Dr Adrian Lister obtained new dates for mammoth bones unearthed in the English county of Shropshire in 1986.

His study in the Geological Journal shows the great beasts remained part of Britain's wildlife for much longer than had previously been supposed.

Mammoths may finally have died out when forests encroached on the grassland habitats they favoured for grazing.

The radiocarbon results from the adult male and four juvenile mammoths from Condover, Shropshire, reveal that the great beasts were in Britain more than 6,000 years longer than had previously been thought.

Researchers had supposed that mammoths disappeared from North-West Europe between 21,000 and 19,000 years ago, during a climatic freeze known as the last glacial maximum (LGM).

Britain's mammoth populations may indeed have vanished with this big chill.

But according to the new study, they were not gone forever. Instead, they returned when conditions eased and clung on in southern England until 14,000 years ago.

"What this usually means is that (mammoths) die out locally and then re-emigrate from refugia somewhere else," Dr Lister told BBC News.

The specimens have been radiocarbon dated before. But the Natural History Museum researcher used a relatively new method of radiocarbon dating to get very accurate ages for the Condover fossils.

"The big issue with all radiocarbon dating is contamination from different sources. You have to be sure the sample you extracted from the fossil is absolutely pure," said Dr Lister.

"There have to be methods for purifying the sample that is extracted from the bone. In the last few years, a new method of purification has been developed at Oxford University called ultra-filtration."

"Various bone specimens that were dated before they developed this new purification method have been shown to be out by a significant amount. Not always, but often. What they do is re-run the sample using the new method and obtain a more accurate date. That's what we did here."

Other large mammals that disappeared as the last Ice Age relented include woolly rhino, bison and giant deer.

At the same time as these species were vanishing from the Earth, human populations were expanding.

Similar die-outs of so-called "megafauna" occurred around the world at similar times, prompting some scientists to ask whether climate or human hunting played the dominant role in their extinction.

No traces of human occupation were found at the Shropshire site. But it is entirely possible that humans could have been in Britain at the same time as these last mammoths.


Dr Lister said that humans might have finished off some of the last remaining pockets of mammoths in Siberia. But he did not think people were the main cause of megafaunal extinctions at the end of the last Ice Age.

During the Ice Age, grasslands were commonplace in Europe because conditions were too cold for trees.

But as the climate warmed up, forests began to spread north, squeezing out the grassland habitats favoured by the majestic beasts.

"It's driven by climate change, but it's not the climate - in the main - that affects these animals. The climate affects the vegetation and the vegetation affects them," said Dr Lister.

"These were grass-eating animals."

Mammoths first appeared in the Pliocene Epoch, about 4.8 million years ago.

One population lived on in isolation on Russia's remote Wrangel Island until about 5,000 years ago, making them the most recent surviving population known to science.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8106090.stm
 

GNC

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My problem with the hunting to extinction theory for mammoths is that they must have been incredibly tough to eat. Are elephants eaten by anyone these days? Your average early human would have been better off with one of those giant deer or a bison.
 

Cavynaut

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gncxx said:
My problem with the hunting to extinction theory for mammoths is that they must have been incredibly tough to eat. Are elephants eaten by anyone these days? Your average early human would have been better off with one of those giant deer or a bison.

Dunno about them being tough to eat (although it's a good point), but I have a similar problem with the hunting to extiction theory for all large animals. The fact that Australia has nothing left larger than kangaroos for instance...were there ever enough aborigines to hunt large marsupials to extinction?
 

ramonmercado

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The shit hits the fungus and we find out more about Mammoths.

Dung helps reveal why mammoths died out
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8368485.stm
By Victoria Gill
Science reporter, BBC News



Mastodons and other megafauna left traces of dung in ancient lake beds


Mammoth dung has proved to be a source of prehistoric information, helping scientists unravel the mystery of what caused the great mammals to die out.

An examination of a fungus that is found in the ancient dung and preserved in lake sediments has helped build a picture of what happened to the beasts.

The study sheds light on the ecological consequences of the extinction and the role that humans may have played in it.

Researchers describe this development in the journal Science.

The study was led by Jacquelyn Gill from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in the US.

She and her colleagues studied the Sporormiella fungal spores contained in the sediment deep within the bed of Appleman Lake in Indiana.

Many very large mammals including mammoths, mastodons and ground sloths inhabited forests in this area of North America about 20,000 years ago.

Sporormiella produces spores in the dung of large herbivores. These are then preserved in the layers of mud and can provide an index of the number of these great animals, or megafauna, that roamed the environment at a particular time.


The researchers took sediment cores from the bed of Appleman lake in Indiana


"Sediment cores are much like ice cores, except with lake mud," explained Ms Gill. "The spores [and other materials] settle out into the lake mud and get buried over time."

She and her team simply counted the pollen, charcoal and Sporormiella in these layers of mud, tracking the timescale of ancient environmental changes.

Their results showed a slow decline in megafauna that began about 15,000 years ago and appeared to last for about 1,000 years.

This discovery rules out one idea that the extinction might have been caused by an extraterrestrial object striking Earth 13,000 years ago.

The scientists also spotted signals of major environmental changes around the time of the extinction.

"This study is exciting because we're getting some solid data about the ecological consequences of the removal of these animals," said Ms Gill.

"After their decline we see an increase in the more warm-adapted deciduous trees, and an increase in charcoal [which means there was] an increase in the number of forest fires.

"So we can see that the forest is reassembling following the extinction."

Human or environment


The cores provide a timeline of environmental change
The study also shows that the decline began about 1,000 years before the Clovis period - when the archaeological record shows that humans were making stone tools designed specifically to hunt large animals.

Prior to this discovery, some scientists believed that Clovis people hunted the animals to extinction.

But Professor Christopher Johnson from James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, said the study still supports the hypothesis that humans were primarily responsible for the mammals' decline.

Professor Johnson was not involved in the study but wrote an accompanying article in the same issue of Science, outlining its significance.

He wrote: "If people were responsible... they must have been pre-Clovis settlers.

"The existence of such people has been controversial, but archaeological evidence is slowly coming to light."

Ms Gill commented: "We can't resolve the climate versus humans debate but we have eliminated one of the main hypotheses for each camp."

She added that there were "modern conservation implications" to the study.

"We know the large herbivores on the landscape today are some of the most threatened," she said.

"And we're starting to learn that they're ecological keystones. They're not just charismatic, they might also be ecologically significant."

Professor Johnson told BBC News: "If we want to understand the history of ecosystems across the planet we really need to understand the effects of megafaunal extinction."
 

ramonmercado

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Lost Giants: Did Mammoths Vanish Before, During and After Humans Arrived?
http://www.scientificamerican.com/artic ... d-mammoths
Three studies seem to disagree as to when mammoths, saber-toothed cats and other North American megafauna disappeared
By Charles Q. Choi


PREHISTORIC MYSTERY: Mastodons feeding on black ash trees. The disappearance of such megafauna has perplexed scientists.
COURTESY OF BARRY ROAL CARLSEN, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON

Before humans arrived, the Americas were home to woolly mammoths, saber-toothed cats, giant ground sloths and other behemoths, an array of megafauna more impressive than even Africa boasts today. Researchers have advanced several theories to explain what did them in and when the event occurred. A series of discoveries announced in the past four weeks, at first glance apparently contradictory, adds fresh details to the mystery of this mass extinction.

One prominent theory pegs humans as the cause of the demise, often pointing to the Clovis people, who left the earliest clear signs of humans entering the New World roughly 13,500 years ago. The timing coincides with the disappearance of megafauna, suggesting the Clovis hunted the animals to extinction or infected them with deadly disease. Another hypothesis supposes that climate was the culprit: it had swung from cold to warm twice, including a 1,300-year-long chill known as the Younger Dryas; such abrupt shifts might have overwhelmed the creatures’ abilities to adapt.

To pin down when the megafauna vanished, paleoecologist Jacquelyn Gill of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and her colleagues analyzed fossil dung, pollen and charcoal from ancient lake sediments in Indiana. The dung of large herbivores harbors a fungus known as Sporomiella , and its amounts in the dung gives an estimate of how many mammoths and other megafauna were alive at different points in history. Pollen indicates vegetation levels, and charcoal signals how many fires burned; the extent of flora and wildfires is related to the presence of herbivores, the researchers say in the November 20 Science. Without megaherbivores to keep them in check, broad-leaved tree species such as black ash, elm and ironwood claimed the landscape; soon after, buildups of woody debris sparked a dramatic increase in wildfires. Putting these data together, Gill and her team conclude that the giant animals disappeared 14,800 to 13,700 years ago —up to 1,300 years before Clovis.

A different study, however, suggests that this mass extinction happened during Clovis. Zooarchaeologist J. Tyler Faith of George Washington University and archaeologist Todd Surovell of the University of Wyoming carbon-dated prehistoric North American mammal bones from 31 different genera (groups of species). They found that all of them seemed to meet their end simultaneously between 13,800 to 11,400 years ago, findings they detailed online November 23 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

But if ancient DNA recovered from permafrost is any sign, megafauna survived in the New World millennia after humanity arrived. As the permafrost in central Alaska cracked during springtime thaws, water that held DNA from life in the region leaked in, only to freeze again during the winter. As such, these genes can serve as markers of “ghost ranges” — remnant populations not preserved as fossil bones.


Looking at mitochondrial DNA, evolutionary biologist Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen and his colleagues suggest mammoths lasted until at least 10,500 years ago (as did horses, which actually originated in the Americas only to vanish there until the Europeans reintroduced them). The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA published those findings online December 14.

Although the three papers appear to conflict with one another, they could be snapshots from the beginning, middle and end of a mass extinction. “If they seem to disagree, it is for the same reason as in that fable about the three blind men trying to describe an elephant —or mammoth?— by touching different parts of it,” says ecologist Christopher Johnson of James Cook University in Australia, who did not take part in any of the studies.

Johnson suggests the fungus research is superb evidence for when the decline began, but it is not as good at confirming exactly when the extinction was completed, especially over larger areas where sparse populations might have persisted. The DNA finds, on the other hand, can detect late survivors, he says, “maybe very close to the actual time that the last individuals were alive, at least in Alaska.” The bones analyzed from the period roughly in between show that the extinction process afflicted many species simultaneously. Those fossils came from the contiguous U.S., which back then was separated from Alaska by the massive Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets and so, Faith notes, could explain why the pattern of extinction differed up there.

So what caused the decline? The jury’s still out, says Willerslev’s collaborator Ross MacPhee of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Johnson notes that archaeologists are turning up evidence of humans in the New World before Clovis, and he suggests they overhunted the megafauna. The beautifully crafted fluted spear points linked with the Clovis might reflect strategies that developed once the giants became rare and harder to hunt, Johnson adds.

Even if scientists cannot definitively finger the killer, research into the megafauna disappearance “is directly relevant today because we are in the middle of a mass extinction and one for which we know the cause — us,” Gill says. “Large animals are among the most threatened today,” she points out, and no one wants Africa to follow the ancient experience of the Americas.
 

Quake42

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Update on the cloning attempts. I hadn't heard about the semi-successful cloning of the extent ibex.

Will resurrecting an extinct species become possible in the future?

A team of scientists has announced plans to attempt to clone a woolly mammoth. But can they really turn this Jurassic Park-style ambition from science fiction into science fact?
.
Could an extinct species come back from the dead? It may sound like something from the realms of science fiction but a team of scientists has decided to give it a go.


The group, from Russia’s Siberian Mammoth Museum and Japan’s Kinki University, want to clone a woolly mammoth using marrow cells discovered in August in a well-preserved thigh bone.


If they succeed – and they hope to do just that within the next five years – it will raise the possibility that other bygone beasts might be brought back to life. So how probable is it that we could ever visit a real-life Jurassic Park?
Cloning animals involves inserting DNA from the individual you want to replicate into eggs from another.


However, the team cloning the mammoth will be using eggs from an elephant, which is an entirely different species, although technically from the same family.


There have been previous failed attempts to bring the woolly mammoth back to life. But in 2008, a mouse was cloned from another that had been frozen for 16 years.


It is hoped this breakthrough could have positive implications for the project – although it wouldn’t be the first time an extinct animal has been cloned. In 2009, Spanish scientists recreated a Pyrenean ibex using a domestic goat egg and an ibex-goat hybrid.


However, the creature was born with defective lungs and only survived a few minutes.


Experts from The Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, where Dolly the sheep was cloned, have several concerns about the new project.


They point out that although an elephant would be the best biological fit to host the new creature, its size might make full-term gestation impossible.
In addition, Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer – the technique used to clone adult animals – calls for an intact nucleus with functioning chromosomes.
In other words, DNA on its own is simply not enough.


Only one per cent of all attempts to clone normal livestock work and we have no idea how much harder it would be to create a mammoth.


Certain species – such as rabbits and rats – have proven incredibly hard to clone, for reasons that are not fully understood.


Dr Keith Campbell, professor of animal development at the University of Nottingham and part of the team that cloned Dolly, said: ‘We’re talking thousands of years here, and we don’t know what has happened to those cells along the way.


‘And physiologically, we don’t know just how different mammoths might be from elephants.’


Despite these obstacles, palaeontologist Dr Michael Montenari of Keele University said the plans were ‘very exciting’.


He said: ‘It could give insights into how this prehistoric animal behaved and perhaps even one day pave the way for a Jurassic Parktype project exploring how this might be done with more ancient creatures.’ However, when it comes to dinosaurs, it doesn’t look like we’ll be jumping into Jeeps for a stegosaurus safari any time soon.


According to the Roslin Institute, there is simply no modern recipient big enough to successfully carry a dinosaur clone to full-term.


Woolly mammoths are unusual among prehistoric animals in that their remains are often not fossilised but preserved because of the frozen climate in which they lived.


They are therefore one of the best-understood prehistoric vertebrates that we have.


Ultimately, as Dr Campbell says: ‘Some things are improbable but nothing is impossible.’


While the cloning team have plenty of hurdles to surmount, don’t rule out a mammoth resurrection...

http://www.metro.co.uk/news/885574-will ... the-future
 

Kondoru

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Oh come on!

Cant we have a Great auk, or several?

Think of the fun we could have, letting them savage naysayers, eating all the goldfish and claiming free Icelandair tickets...
 

ChrisBoardman

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