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Body of teenaged woolly mammoth found in Siberian tundra

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 10th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

What stories do the bones of prehistory tell? Russian scientists theorize that the body of a 16-year-old mammoth named Jenya - named for the 11-year-old boy who first saw the mammoth's bones sticking out of the Siberian tundra was in search of either food or females when he was probably speared by the local cavemen.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Professor Alexei Tikhonov of the Zoology Institute in St. Petersburg says the mammoth was excavated from the Siberian permafrost in late September near the Sopochnaya Karga cape, 2,200 miles northeast of Moscow.

Professors say that Jenya the mammoth was 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 500 to 1,100 pounds. "He was pretty small for his age," Tikhonov told The Associated Press.

Jenya was missing a left tusk that made him unfit for fights with other mammoths or human hunters who were settling the Siberian marshes and swamps some 20,000-30,000 years ago. Splits on Jenya's remaining tusk show a "possible human touch," he added.

An examination of Jenya's remains has proved that the massive humps on mammoths seen on Ice Age cave paintings in Spain and France were not extended bones. Rather, these lumps were huge chunks of fat that helped mammoths regulate their body temperatures and survive the long, cold winters.

Jenya's hump was relatively big, which means he died during a short Arctic summer, Tikhonov says.

Mammoths were up to 13 feet in height and 10 tons in weight. These prehistoric pachyderms migrated across huge areas between Great Britain and North America and were driven to extinction by humans along with the changing climate.

Woolly mammoths are thought to have died out around 10,000 years ago. Some scientists think small groups of them lived longer in Alaska and on Russia's Wrangel Island off the Siberian coast.

Mammoth remains have been found in the Siberian permafrost and most of the well-preserved mammoths are calves. Jenya's carcass is the best-preserved one since the 1901 discovery of a giant mammoth near the Beryozovka River in Russia's northeastern Yakutia region.

The mammoth's DNA has been damaged by low temperatures and is "hardly" suitable for possible cloning, scientists say.

Researchers are placing their bets on an earlier mammoth discovery in order to help recreate the Ice Age elephant.

Russia's North-Eastern Federal University said in early September that an international team of researchers had discovered mammoth hair, soft tissues and bone marrow some 328 feet  underground during a summer expedition in Yakutia.

Some think it's possible to recreate the prehistoric animal if they find living cells in the permafrost. Those who succeed in recreating an extinct animal could claim a "Jurassic Park prize," a concept being developed by the X Prize Foundation that awarded a 2004 prize for the first private spacecraft.

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