A baby woolly mammoth which spent 40,000 years frozen in the Siberian permafrost, has provided scientists with clues about how the species survived during the Ice Age.
05 Oct 2009
Lyuba: Lyuba is due to be the star of a mammoths and mastodons exhibition at Chcago's Field Museum that opens in March. Photo: AFP
"Lyuba" was sucked to her death in a muddy river bed. She was so well preserved that traces of her mother's milk remained in her belly when she was discovered three years ago by nomadic reindeer herders.
Lyuba is to be the star of a mammoths-and-mastodons exhibition at Chicago's Field Museum, due to open in March.
"There's a visceral awe that takes hold of you in looking at a specimen like Lyuba, and the exhibition as a whole demonstrates how close we can come to knowing what these animals were like," said lead curator Daniel Fisher, a professor of geological sciences at the University of Michigan who is part of the international team studying the remains.
Lyuba - who was about a month old when she died - has already taught researchers much about mammoths that they had been unable to glean from fossils and other less well preserved finds.
"We had no idea from preserved skeletons and preserved carcasses that young mammoths had a discrete structure on the back of the head of brown fat cells," said Prof Fisher.
The hump acted as a furnace to help maintain body temperature in cold climate, which supports the theory that mammoths were born in the early spring.
Lyuba appeared to be in perfect health when she died and researchers found sediment and mud in her mouth, trunk and throat which indicates that she suffocated while struggling to free herself from a mud hole or slurry.
She is intact enough to yield DNA, but "no one is on the threshold of cloning at this point", said Prof Fisher.
When the exhibition closes in September 2010 Lubya will embark on a 10-city tour whose final stop is scheduled for London's Natural History Museum in 2014. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/6261226/Baby-woolly-mammoth-provides-secrets-of-survival-in-Ice-Age.html