Mammoth Blood Found In Siberia: Will Ice Age Species Be Cloned?

By Philip Ross on May 29, 2013 11:26 AM EDT

woolly mammoth
In October 1999, an almost complete woolly mammoth body (pictured) was exhumed from the Siberian permafrost. It was the first time scientists were able to preserve soft tissue from a woolly mammoth, sparking hope of cloning the ancient beast. (Photo: Reuters)

Mammoth blood, discovered underneath ice in Siberia, could be used to clone the extinct ancient mammal. Scientists discovered the mammoth blood trapped in ice cavities below the belly of a fully-grown female mammoth, according to RT.

A Russian team from Yakutsk, the capital city of the Sakha Republic in Russia located 280 miles south of the Arctic Circle, unearthed the giant beast on the Lyakhovsky Islands in the Arctic seas of northeastern Russia. The scientists were excavating the carcass of a female mammoth, estimated to have lived from 10,000 to 15,000 years ago and established to be about 50 to 60 years old when it perished, when they found the pooled pockets of mammoth blood.

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When the scientists cracked the frozen cavities with their ice picks, blood oozed out.

"We were really surprised to find mammoth blood and muscle tissue," Semyon Grigoriev, head of the Institute of Applied Ecology at the North Eastern Federal University, told Siberian Times. "It is the first time we managed to obtain mammoth blood. No-one has ever seen before how the mammoth's blood flows."

Grigoriev said the reason the mammoth blood found in ice was so well preserved was because the sample did not defrost and then refreeze. The mammoth blood, found in temperatures below 14 degrees Fahrenheit, had a kind of "natural anti-freeze" property to it.

According to National Geographic, mammoths prospered in northern Siberia until about 12,000 years ago, when increased temperatures and human activity drove the mammoth to extinction. Today, however, that same process of climate change is revealing their remains as the ice begins to thaw.

The first mostly intact woolly mammoth specimens were uncovered in the Siberian tundra in the 1800s. Just last year, an 11-year-old stumbled upon a frozen teenage mammoth carcass when he saw its limbs sticking out of the frozen mud, Huffington Post reports.

Woolly mammoth tusks, which could be up to 13 feet long, are prized finds and have fueled a mammoth tusk industry across the globe. From National Geographic:

Nothing ... has fueled the mammoth tusk trade more than the rise of China, which has an ivory-carving tradition going back thousands of years. Nearly 90 percent of all mammoth tusks hauled out of Siberia-estimated at more than 60 tons a year, though the actual figure may be higher-end up in China, where legions of the newly rich are entranced by ivory. The spike in demand has worried some scientists, who lament the loss of valuable data; like the trunk of a tree, a tusk contains clues about diet, climate, and the environment. Even Yakutiyans wonder how quickly this nonrenewable resource will be depleted. Millions of mammoth tusks, perhaps more, are still locked in Siberia's permafrost, but already they're becoming harder to find.

Three adult mammoth carcasses, including the latest discovery in Siberia, have been found in the history of paleontology.

So what are the prospects for cloning the woolly mammoth found in Siberia? According to Siberian Times, Russia signed a deal with South Korean giving their scientists exclusive rights on cloning the ice age beast from tissue samples found in the Siberian tundra. Once the mammoth tissue has been treated with a nuclear transfer process, scientists will implant the eggs into the womb of a live elephant that will carry the mammoth for 22 months.

The Siberian Times has exclusive photos of the mammoth blood found in Siberia. To see the pictures of mammoth blood, click here.

Read more from iScience Times:

Carnivore Death Cave: What Lured Ancient Mammals To Their Deaths?

Ancient Cave Art Unearthed: Where Did Mexico's 5,000 Paintings Come From?

Living Mammoth Cells Found: Can The Extinct Mammal Be Cloned?

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