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15:26 | Jun 07 | 2013

Adult female mammoth discovered by Yakutian scientists for the first time


On May 22 a paleontological expedition of the Scientific Research Institute of Applied Ecology of the North of the North-Eastern Federal University and the Russian Geographical Society returned to Yakutsk. Scientists discovered remains of an adult female mammoth in excellent condition in the Lyakhov Islands of the Novosibirsk Archipelago. This discovery aroused the public’s special interest. Experts chose this place not by chance: the New Siberian Islands were called the center of the mammoth continent with most found remains of mammoths.


On May 29 researchers gave a press conference with the expeditionary video-, photo- and report- materials. The burial of the mammoth was found in the beginning of September 2012 by mammoth tusks hunters. The excavation expedition had been lasting for 24 days (from April 29 to May 22) with the participation of 10 members of the community. In this case excavations were not produced by defrosting with steam as usually not to damage the carcass, but with the help of a jackhammer.


The discovery was unique because the found mammoth was female; all previous findings were male ones. After teeth study, paleontologists found out that the animal died at the age of 50-60 years. It was interesting that fragments of muscle tissue of the mammoth had a natural red color of fresh meat. Such preservation was caused by a place of burial: the lower part of the body lied in a nearly pure ice, and the upper part was found in the middle of the tundra.


The expedition leader, the head of the Laboratory “Museum of the Mammoth” of the NEFU Institute of Applied Ecology of the North, Semyon Grigoriev, commented: “We sampled the animal's blood in test tubes with a special curing agent. Very dark blood was in the icy voids below the belly; when we broke these voids in several places with a pick, the blood started flowing out. This was the most surprising thing because the ambient temperature at the time of the excavation was kept at around -7 -10 ˚C. It can be assumed that the blood of mammoths possessed some cryoprotective properties”.


Now the finding is drawing interest of Russian scientists and their foreign colleagues. The taken samples have been already brought in Yakutsk; their bacteriological analysis for identification of agents of dangerous infections will be carried out in the near future.


Obviously, it was important to excavate the mammoth in a cold time of a year, as in summer or autumn the unique finding would have thawed and the invaluable material for the joint project of NEFU and fund SOOAM “Revival of the mammoth” could fail because of defrost and predatory animals biting. Until then, the mammoth remains were left in the north in ice, because the carcass would inevitably defrost while transporting in Yakutsk without special freezers or refrigerators. In summer Yakutian scientists together with a large international team of scientists will go to the north. Then the carcass will be brought to Yakutsk with maintenance of all precautions and conditions. Researches will be continued in laboratory conditions on another level.


“The expedition was financed by the North-Eastern Federal University on behalf of the Rector Evgenia Mikhailova through the development program of NEFU till 2016. This is an exceptional case when someone invests our research”, said Semyon.


“As the mammoth Lyakhovsky already exists, the scientists think to name this mammoth Malolyakhovsky, but the name is still in development”.


After all stages of research the mammoth will become a display exhibit of the developing Yakutian “Museum of the Mammoth”. The expedition members dedicated their amazing discovery to the 100th anniversary of the Yakutsk branch of the Russian Geographical Society, and the 20th anniversary of the Institute of Applied Ecology of the North, which will be celebrated on June 5-7.




Mariia Ivanova