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Well-Preserved Woolly Mammoth Fossil DNA Damaged, Cloning Not Possible

Oct 07, 2012 02:35 PM EDT
woolly mammoth
New analysis of mammoth neck bones show that the animals inbred, which probably led to their decline.
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

The frozen remains of a woolly mammoth discovered by a young Russian boy is a well-preserved carcass of a teenage mammoth that lived in the Siberian Tundra 30,000 years ago, Russian scientists announced.

Yevgeny Salinder, a 11-year-old-boy, found the mammoth near the Sopochnaya Karga cape, 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) northeast of Moscow, with the animal's limbs sticking out of the frozen mud, reported The Associated Press.

The carcass was transported via a helicopter to the town of Dudinka in Russia for further analysis. Experts have already determined some key details of the animal.

The 16-year-old mammoth, named unofficially as Zhenya (after the boy's nickname), was just about 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighed only 1,100 pounds which is "pretty small for his age," Alexei Tikhonov, the deputy head of the Zoological Institute in the Russian Academy of Sciences, told AP.

When scientists examined the carcass of the mammoth, they found that the animal was a male. They were able to retrieve the skin, hair, tusk, bones and the reproductive organs of the mammoth, all well-preserved and intact.

Zhenya had only one tusk, suggesting that the mammoth was not fit to fight other mammoths and hunters. The animal is believed to have been killed by an Ice Age man and after examining the hump on the mammoth's back, experts found that he died during a short Arctic summer.

According to the researchers, mammoths have chunks of fat on their hump that helps them to regulate their body temperature. Zhenya's hump was quite big suggesting that it died during a short period of Arctic summer.

However, the DNA of the mammoth was found damaged making it unsuitable for cloning. For long, researchers have been planning to clone the woolly mammoth.

In March 2012, controversial cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-Suk of South Korea's Sooam Biotech Research Foundation signed a deal with the North-Eastern Federal University of the Sakha Republic to bring back the animal that has long become extinct.

Scientists have been hoping to find living cells that are required for the cloning process. Another recent discovery of a well-preserved mammoth from the northeastern province of Yakutia in Siberia has already raised hopes for cloning the animal.

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