‘Pickled’ baby mammoth opens window to Ice Age

mammothx-largeBy Dan Vergano, USA TODAY A baby mammoth dubbed Lyuba had her brief life cut short in a swamp 40,000 years ago, but the well-preserved specimen will provide the world a window into the extinct creatures from the Ice Age.

 

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Discovered in 2007, the 1-month-old mammoth died suddenly, probably trapped in mud. “She was doing great, very healthy,” says paleontologist Dan Fisher of the University of Michigan, part of the international team researching Lyuba. “She just had this terrible misfortune.”

Lyuba appears in the May National Geographic and in Waking the Baby Mammoth Sunday (9 p.m. ET/PT) on the National Geographic Channel. She’s perhaps the best-preserved mammoth ever discovered: Lyuba’s skin and internal organs appear intact, as well as traces of mother’s milk found in her stomach. The only damage to the mammoth, which is less than 3 feet tall, are bite marks from village dogs.

Covered in coarse hair, the woolly mammoth, Mammuthus primigenius, roamed Eurasia and western North America at least 200,000 to 10,000 years ago. Dozens of partly intact woolly mammoths have been uncovered from Siberia’s tundra, but Lyuba exhibits remarkable preservation. “She’s all there,” Fisher says. Preliminary analysis by Fisher and colleagues suggests the clay and silt that swallowed up the baby mammoth effectively “pickled” her.

“What’s most remarkable about the find is that Lyuba is so well-preserved,” says Richard Stone, author of Mammoth: The Resurrection of an Ice Age Giant, who was not part of the project. “That suggests there are plenty of outstanding specimens locked away in the permafrost icebox.   LEARN MORE HERE and more HERE

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