Mammoth's internal organs found perfectly preserved
Saturday 12 April 2008
Russian scientists have obtained the most detailed pictures so far of the insides of a prehistoric animal, with the help of a baby mammoth called Lyuba found immaculately preserved in the Russian Arctic.
The mammoth is named after the wife of the hunter who found her last year. The body was shipped to Russia in February from Japan, where it was studied using computer tomography in a process similar to one doctors use to scan patients.
"We could see for the first time how internal organs are located inside a mammoth," said Alexei Tikhonov, deputy director of the Russian Academy of Science's Zoological Institute, who has been leading the project.
"Her internal organs were well preserved – the heart was seen distinctly with all its ventricles and atria, as well as the liver and its veins," Mr Tikhonov said. "This is the best preserved specimen not only of the mammoth but of any prehistoric animal."
The mammoth species has been extinct since the Ice Age. Tests on Lyuba showed she was fed on milk and was three to four months old when she died 37,000 years ago in what is now the Yamalo-Nenetskiy region in north-central Russia. The scans showed her airways and digestive system were clogged with silt, indicating that she drowned.
Mr Tikhonov said: "I believe the genetic map [of the mammoth] will be decoded within a year or two. Lyuba will be exhibited in Salekhard [capital of Yamalo-Nenetskiy] starting this summer in a case with sub-zero temperatures."
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