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Mammoth Park in Siberia

An artist's impression of an Ice Age ecosystem – similar to the one that Pleistocene Park...
An artist’s impression of an Ice Age ecosystem – similar to the one that Pleistocene Park is trying to recreate(Credit: Mauricio Antón/CC BY 2.5)

A real-world Jurassic Park is never going to happen, but shooting for a more recent prehistoric era might be more achievable. The Pleistocene Park project is aiming to rebuild a lost Ice Age ecosystem in Siberia, and its directors, the father-and-son team of Sergey and Nikita Zimov, say it could help slow the effects of climate change. Now, the initiative is running a crowdfunding campaign to help transport a new herd of animals to the park. read more

Still Woolly after All These Years

A female woolly mammoth, which was found frozen in  Russia in May, has gone on display in an exhibition hall in Tokyo.

The 39,000-year-old mammoth will be on display at the hall in Yokohama in the south of the Japanese city from 13 July until September 16.

Visitors and tourists will be able to come  and view the extinct creature that was discovered in  an ice tomb in the New Siberian Islands, or  Novosibirsk Islands, earlier this  year.

A 39,000-year-old female woolly mammoth, which was found frozen in Siberia in May, is seen here upon its arrival at an exhibition hall in Yokohama, south of Tokyo
A 39,000-year-old female woolly mammoth, which was found  frozen in Siberia in May, is seen here upon its arrival at an exhibition hall in  Yokohama, south of Tokyo. The mammoth will be on display for tourists and  visitors from 13 July until 16 September
The mammoth, pictured, was discovered in an ice tomb in the New Siberian Islands, or Novosibirsk Islands earlier this year.
The mammoth, pictured, was discovered in an ice tomb in  the New Siberian Islands, or Novosibirsk Islands earlier this year. Parts of the  carcass are especially well preserved because they remained entirely frozen for  thousands of years

REAL LIFE JURASSIC PARK ‘NOT  AN OPTION’, SCIENTISTS SAY

 

Last year a controversial Australian  billionaire was believed to be drawing up secret plans for a real-life Jurassic  Park.

Mining magnate Clive Palmer, who has already  embarked on a project to rebuild  the Titanic, was rumoured to be working with  the team who created Dolly  the sheep.

But the research has shown the dinosaurs may  have to stay on the big screen – as their DNA is just too old to be able to use  for de-extinction.

However, Korean scientists are hoping that  the samples found on the Siberian woolly mammoth aren’t too old.

They plan to take  the DNA samples and reassemble them into  a full genome.

This could then be injected into embryonic  cells which have had their own DNA  taken out, and a suitable living surrogate  would be found.

Parts of the carcass are especially well  preserved because they remained entirely frozen for thousands of  years.

This means that the shape of the mammoth is  intact, including its hair – which gave the mammoth its woolly name.

However, the upper torso and two legs, which  were found in the soil rather than the ice, were gnawed by  prehistoric and  modern predators and almost did not survive.

Visitors to the hall will also be able to clearly see  the mammoth’s snout, legs and torso.

The scientists who found the mammoth in May  were also able to extract a blood sample from the beast.

It was the first  ever well-preserved sample of blood from a woolly mammoth and could be used to  recreate the extinct  species.

The blood was sealed inside ice beneath the  carcass of a female mammoth.

Preserved muscle tissue was also found from  the creature, aged between 50 and 60  when she died, according to the Russian  team who made the  discovery on islands off the northern coast of  Siberia.

A worker looks at the exhibition hall in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, inspects the snout of the 39,000-year-old woolly mammoth.
A worker at the exhibition hall in Yokohama, south of  Tokyo, inspects the snout of the 39,000-year-old woolly mammoth. Scientists  discovered a well-preserved sample of blood from the creature in May and are  looking into ways in which the extinct species could be brought back from extinctionThe find – said to be the first time mammoth  blood has been discovered – comes amid a hotly contested debate over the  morality of Jurassic  Park-style projects to restore extinct creatures to the  planet, with  some scientists insisting it will be impossible to get exactly the  same  mammoths as once roamed Siberia.Semyon Grigoriev, head of the Museum of  Mammoths of the Institute of  Applied Ecology of the North at the North Eastern  Federal University  told The Siberian Times: ‘We were really surprised to find  mammoth blood and muscle tissue.’He hailed it as ‘the best preserved mammoth  in the history of paleontology’.

 

The snout of the 39,000-year-old mammoth on display in Tokyo.
The snout of the 39,000-year-old mammoth, pictured, on  display in Tokyo. When the mammoth was discovered preserved muscle tissue was  also found from the creature, aged between 50 and 60 when she died, according to  the Russian team who made the discovery on islands off the northern coast of  Siberia

The foot of the female woolly mammoth, pictured, shows that many of the animal's original features - including the hair that gave the mammoth its woolly name - is still intact.
The foot of the female woolly mammoth, pictured, shows  that many of the animal’s original features – including the hair that gave the  mammoth its woolly name – is still intact. The upper torso and two legs, which  were found in the soil and not buried in ice, were gnawed by predators and  almost didn’t survive

‘It is the first time we managed to obtain  mammoth blood. No-one has ever seen before how the mammoth’s blood  flows.’

Dr Grigoriev put the approximate age of the  animal at around 10,000 years old but more recent dating tests suggest the  creature is much older – daring back around 39,000 years.

‘It has been preserved thanks to the special  conditions, due to the fact that it did not defrost and then freeze  again.

‘We suppose that the mammoth fell into water  or got bogged down in a swamp, could not free herself and died.

This image taken by the Yakutsk-based Northeastern Federal University, shows a researcher working near a carcass of a female mammoth found on a remote island in the Arctic Ocean.
A researcher from the Museum of Mammoths of the  Institute of Applied Ecology at the North-Eastern Federal University, pictured,  working near a carcass of the female mammoth found on a remote island off the  coast of Siberia in May

A researcher from the Northeastern Federal University in Siberia holds a test tube with what scientists are calling 'a sample of well-preserved blood' found in a carcass of a female woolly mammoth.
A researcher from the North-Eastern Federal University  in Siberia holds a test tube with a sample of well-preserved blood found in a  carcass of a female woolly mammoth. The sample was discovered on a remote island  in the Arctic Ocean and is thought to be the first discovery of its kind‘Due to this fact the lower part of the body,  including the lower jaw, and tongue tissue, was preserved very well.The hope is that at least one living cell of  the mammoth was preserved  ‘although even with such well-preserved remains, this  may not be the  case.”It is great luck that the blood preserved  and we plan to study it carefully,” Dr Grigoriev continued.

‘For now our suspicion is that mammoth blood  contains a kind of natural anti-freeze.’

Samples taken from the mammoth include  ‘blood, blood vessels, glands, soft tissue, in a word – everything that we  could.

As well as a sample of blood, Siberian scientists also discovered a well-preserved sample of muscle tissue from the woolly mammoth carcass.
As well as a sample of blood, Russian scientists also  discovered a well-preserved sample of muscle tissue from the woolly mammoth  carcass. The blood and tissue were preserved because they were buried in an ice  tomb on the Novosibirsk islands for what’s thought to have been 10,000 years

‘Luckily we had taken with us on our  expedition a special preservative agent for blood.’

The samples were taken for study to Yakutsk,  capital of the Republic of  Sakha, also known as Yakutia, the largest region in  the Russian  Federation.

The carcass weighing around one tonne was  then moved to the Siberian mainland and was kept in ice storage before being  taken to Tokyo.

The blood and other samples were made  available to South  Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk’s private bioengineering  laboratory,  which has confirmed it is working with other mammoth DNA samples in  a  bid to return the extinct Siberian mammoth to the planet.

The woolly mammoth was probably wiped out by rapid climate change caused by a meteor striking the Earth, not by overhunting as previously believed
The woolly mammoth was probably wiped out by rapid  climate change caused by a meteor striking the Earth, not by overhunting as  previously believed

The  eventual plan is to plant an implanted egg into a live elephant for a 22-month  pregnancy.

Earlier this year a group of scientists from  around the world met for TEDx conference  in Washington, sponsored by National Geographic.

The group were discussing the possibility of  bringing 24 animals back from extinction, also known as ‘de-extinction’.

The animals included the dodo  bird, the Carolina Parakeet, last  seen in 1904 in Florida, and the Quagga, a  plains zebra which once lived in South Africa but died out in 1883.

However, a real life Jurassic Park is not an  option, it is said, because dinosaur DNA is just too old.

In May, scientists from University  of Cincinnati claimed that a giant meteor  was probably responsible for wiping out the woolly mammoth, and not hunting,  which researchers previously thought was the reason.

They believe a huge meteor smashing through  the Earth’s atmosphere broke up into ten million tonnes of fiery fragments,  scattering over four continents.

These fragments are thought to have released  toxic gas which poisoned the air and blacked out the sun, causing temperatures  to plummet, plants to die and landscapes to alter forever.

Attribution: Mail Online

So the Native Americans aren’t Native?

Altai in southern Siberia sits right at the centre of Russia. But the tiny, mountainous republic has a claim to fame unknown until now – Native Americans can trace their origins to the remote region.

DNA research revealed that genetic markers linking people living in the Russian republic of Altai, southern Siberia, with indigenous populations in North America.

A study of the mutations indicated a lineage shift between 13,000 and 14,000 years ago – when people are thought to have walked across the ice from Russia to America

This roughly coincides with the period when humans from Siberia are thought to have crossed what is now the Bering strait and entered America.

“Altai is a key area because it’s a place where people have been coming and going for thousands and thousands of years”, said Dr Theodore Schurr, from the University of Pennsylvania.

Among the people who may have emerged from the Altai region are the predecessors of the first Native Americans.

Roughly 20-25,000 years ago, these prehistoric humans carried their Asian genetic lineages up into the far reaches of Siberia and eventually across the then-exposed Bering land mass into the Americas.

“Our goal in working in this area was to better define what those founding lineages or sister lineages are to Native American populations,” Schurr said.
The region lies at the intersection of what is now Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan.

Dr Schurr’s team checked Altai DNA samples for markers in mitochondrial DNA which is always passed on by mothers, and Y chromosome DNA which sons inherit from their fathers.

Because of the large number of gene markers examined, the findings have a high degree of precision.

“At this level of resolution we can see the connections more clearly,” Schurr said.

Looking at the Y chromosome DNA, the researchers found a unique mutation shared by Native Americans and southern Altaians in the lineage known as Q.

Mitochondrial DNA is found in tiny rod-like ‘powerplants’ in cells that generate energy. Both kinds of DNA showed links between Altaians and Native Americans.

In the Y chromosome DNA, the researchers found a unique mutation shared by Native Americans and people from southern Altai.

The findings are published today in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

Calculating how long the mutations they noted took to arise, Schurr’s team estimated that the southern Altaian lineage diverged genetically from the Native American lineage 13,000 to 14,000 years ago, a timing scenario that aligns with the idea of people moving into the Americas from Siberia between 15,000 and 20,000 years ago.

Though it’s possible, even likely, that more than one wave of people
crossed the land bridge, Schurr said that other researchers have not yet been able to identify another similar geographic focal point from which Native Americans can trace their heritage.

“It may change with more data from other groups, but, so far, even with intensive work in Mongolia, they’re not seeing the same things that we are”, he said.

In addition to elucidating the Asia-America connection, the study confirms that the modern cultural divide between southern and northern Altaians has ancient genetic roots

Attribution: Daily Mail