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Scientists uncover frozen mammoth, blood flows out

A Siberian expedition finds a well-preserved woolly mammoth. When scientists investigate, blood comes running out, lending hope to an ambitious cloning project.

North-Eastern Federal University researchers in Siberia.
North-Eastern Federal University

When it comes to cloning extinct critters, it seems most people are holding out more hope for re-creating woolly mammoths than building "Jurassic Park." The researchers involved in a mammoth-rebuilding project are probably pretty excited about a recent find by Russian scientists who uncovered a fairly fresh new mammoth.

A paleontological expedition from the Research Institute of Applied Ecology of the North, North-Eastern Federal University, and the Russian Geographical Society discovered a female mammoth in a remarkably good state of preservation in the Novosibirsk archipelago in Siberia. North-Eastern Federal University has partnered with controversial South Korean cloning scientist Hwang Woo-Suk (who was found to have faked data involving a procedure to clone human embryonic stem cells) for a mammoth-cloning effort.

"The fragments of muscle tissues, which we've found out of the body, have a natural red color of fresh meat," says expedition leader Semyon Grigoriev. "The reason for such preservation is that the lower part of the body was underlying in pure ice, and the upper part was found in the middle of tundra."

The scientists gathered blood samples for testing, which turned out to be a fairly simple process. "The blood is very dark, it was found in ice cavities bellow the belly and when we broke these cavities with a poll pick, the blood came running out," Grigoriev says.

Depending on who you are, this discovery will mean different things. If you're a cloner, you can't wait to get your hands on some of that blood and tissue. If you're a paleontologist, you're hoping to learn more about how woolly mammoths worked. If you're hungry, you're probably wondering what mammoth steaks taste like. Let's not go there.

Wooly mammoth at  Royal British Columbia Museum
This woolly mammoth display is from the Royal British Columbia Museum. WolfmanSF