Thursday, July 12, 2007

Preserved Baby Mammoth Found

This is so amazing that I'm practically giddy--not schoolgirl giddy, mind you, but the more dignified kind of scientist giddy:
MOSCOW (Reuters) - The discovery of a baby mammoth preserved in the Russian permafrost gives researchers their best chance yet to build a genetic map of a species extinct since the Ice Age, a Russian scientist said on Wednesday.

"It's a lovely little baby mammoth indeed, found in perfect condition," said Alexei Tikhonov, deputy director of the Russian Academy of Science's Zoological Institute, which has been taking care of the mammoth since it was uncovered in May.

When they say "perfect condition," they're not exaggerating. The pictures are just astonishing, as well as a video, and you can see both of them here.

Here's more:
Tikhonov said the fact the mammoth was so remarkably well-preserved -- its shaggy coat was gone but otherwise it looked as though it had only recently died -- meant it was a potential treasure trove for scientists.

"Such a unique skin condition protects all the internal organs from modern microbes and micro-organisms ... In terms of its future genetic, molecular and microbiological studies, this is just an unprecedented specimen."

That's great, but unfortunately, that doesn't mean cloning:
But Tikhonov dismissed suggestions the mammoth could be cloned and used to breed a live mammoth. Cloning can only be done if whole cells are intact, but the freezing conditions will have caused the cells to burst, he Tikhonov.

Someday, I'm hoping. Someday.

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