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Biotech Science

Baby Mammoth Found Intact 227

knoll99 writes "Scientists unveiled the discovery Wednesday of a baby mammoth found in the permafrost of north-west Siberia. The remains of the six-month-old female mammoth were discovered in a remarkable state of preservation on the Yamal peninsula of Russia in May, a Reuters report said. The specimen is believed to be the best of its kind to date."
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Baby Mammoth Found Intact

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  • Re:Turkey Baster.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by JebusIsLord ( 566856 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @07:39PM (#19832397)
    According to TFA, they can't because they need intact cells, and they'll all have burst from the freezing process.
  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @07:45PM (#19832455) Homepage
    Wikipedia article on Draenei [wikipedia.org] in case anybody is as lost as I am. This is the great thing about wikipedia over any other traditional encyclopedia. Although some may say it's not as accurate, or reliable, it definitely has a wider breadth of knowledge and obscure articles than any other encyclopedia I've ever seen.
  • by saintjah ( 1126939 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @07:48PM (#19832481)
    That'd be interesting, but the fact that this mammoth most likely died from an unrelated cause and was frozen afterwards may work against it "holding" the information that we want to find out about extinction?
  • us

    whenever mankind shows up, the slowly reproducing, tasty giant beasts and megafauna disappear, sometimes pretty quicky

    off the top of my head, it happened to

    the auroch [wikipedia.org]

    the irish elk [wikipedia.org]

    the moa [wikipedia.org]

    steller's sea cow [wikipedia.org] (wiped out in 30 years, go progress!)

    i'm sure slashdotters here could pull out a couple of dozen other examples

  • Re:Cloning (Score:4, Informative)

    by wile_e_wonka ( 934864 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @08:07PM (#19832633)
    No idea. However, I just googled: mammoth elephan cloning and found some interesting things to read on the topic. From the first result:

    October 17, 1999:
    A team of French, American, Dutch and Russian paleontologists successfully airlifted a male, 23 tonne (25 ton) woolly mammoth from its grave in Siberia where it had been frozen for 20,000 years. It was almost complete except for its head which had been exposed to air in the past. Since the species has been extinct for over 10,000 years, some scientists have proposed that attempts be made to breed a living mammoth from DNA, sperm or cell nucleus retrieved from the carcass. A modern elephant ovum would be used, because it is the closest living relative to the mammoth.
    This, sounds like the story I read about in which the scientists later decided the DNA was too degraded to use. As of the time I read the story the scientists were supposedly just hoping for a better specimen to come along. Perhaps they have one now.
  • Re:Turkey Baster.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @08:29PM (#19832865)
    "...and they'll all have burst from the freezing process."

    Technically, cell rupture occurs as a result of the thawing process, and is not related directly to freezing.

    It is possible to control thawing and avoid cell rupture if an organism is found while still originally frozen. I suspect something such as this 6 month old Mammoth has been subjected to more than one cycle of being frozen and thawed out.
  • by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @08:31PM (#19832879)

    The Jurassic Park-esque cloning talk is definitely going to be the focus of most of the discussion, but have any of the articles mentioned how well the tissues, organs, and fluids are preserved? This seems like an extraordinary chance to find hard evidence on what caused their extinction.
    From TFA

    "Such a unique skin condition protects all the internal organs from modern microbes and micro-organisms ... In terms of its future genetic, molecular and microbiological studies, this is just an unprecedented specimen."

    But Tikhonov dismissed suggestions the mammoth could be cloned and used to breed a live mammoth. Cloning can only be done if whole cells are intact, but the freezing conditions will have caused the cells to burst, he Tikhonov.
  • Re:Turkey Baster.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheMeuge ( 645043 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @08:56PM (#19833037)
    You don't need intact cells, but rather fairly intact nuclei. Nucleus is a more robust structure than the cell membrane, and I would't be surprised if we could find relatively intact nuclei in the tissue, depending on the amount of time that passed between the animal's death and the freezing of the body.
  • by Pedrito ( 94783 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @10:40PM (#19833865)
    It doesn't really matter. DNA degrades over time, even if preserved in this fashion. It's extremely unlikely that they'd be able to find any viable DNA for cloning. There might be enough pieces in good enough shape for determining a lot about their genetic makeup, but that's likely going to come in the form of DNA fragments.
  • Re:Turkey Baster.. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @10:44PM (#19833893)

    Technically, cell rupture occurs as a result of the thawing process, and is not related directly to freezing.
    Technically cell rupture occurs when water-ice crystals form at a cellular level under natural low-temperature conditions.... Imagine pretty snowflakes, then think of them from a cellular-scale persepective wherin they resemble nothing so much as a mass of sharp, glass-like, shurikens ... When the water in and around every cell turns into that, you get cell rupture and massive tissue destruction.

    Most cryogenic techniques focus on methods to control or eliminate crystal formation in the tissue (ie replacing as much water as possible with "anti-freeze" like solutions and/or using slow-freeze techniques to prevent directionalized crystal formation). With these factors in mind, it's not hard to see why we have difficulty with reversible macro-scale cryonics.

    Even the companies that will freeze you (or parts of you) for future "resurrection" stipulate that they're awaiting technologies (presumably nanotech) that would be required in order to repair the cellular damage done to the tissues by their comparitively primitive freezing techniques

    In any event, if you actually manage to freeze a macro-scale organism without massive cellular destruction resulting from ice-water crystals, you should prolly get a speech ready for the Nobel Comittee...


    PS: Don't confuse macro-scale cryonics with the experiments being performed using newts, frogs and other amphibians that have been shown to utilise low-temperature metabolicic stasis for surviving winter: In these cases, it has been demonstrated that natural, anti-freeze-like chemicals in the blood and bodies of these animals act to prevent water-ice crystal formation so that the animals don't actually freeze-solid. Current thinking is that similiar techniques represent the closest we are likely to come to being able to extend/suspend life with cryonics. Macro-scale cryonic freezing such as this mammoth would probably have experienced, on the other hand, refers specifically to the complete solidification (freezing) of all tissues in a macro-scale organisim (ie massively multi-cellular). A circumstance which is generally considered impossible to recover from...
  • by CrankyOldBastard ( 945508 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @11:06PM (#19834015)
    In The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn describes how the zeks ate a frozen mammoth raw before it could be studied. This has more to do with their inadequate diet than how tasty mammoth is.
  • Re:Blending? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Smauler ( 915644 ) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @12:32AM (#19834539)

    For all those who know not of it : http://www.willitblend.com/ [willitblend.com]

    "Will it blend" is old now, I'm wondering why it is appearing on slashdot at all. They've already proved that anything electronic will blend into a pile of grey dust, and yes, most other things will blend too. Though I refer you to this :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aM94aorYVS4 [youtube.com]

  • by simong ( 32944 ) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @04:15AM (#19835433) Homepage
    The ice and permafrost will have melted and shifted a little recently to expose the body. This isn't to say anything about global warming as it's a fairly regular occurence in the trans-polar regions. Mammoths and lost mountaineers are lost and exposed all the time.
  • that's a good point (Score:3, Informative)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Thursday July 12, 2007 @08:40AM (#19836565) Homepage Journal
    i would respond with qualifiers:

    1. the megafauna i'm talking about would be the herbivores
    2. the megafauna in the cold climates/ on islands are for more vulnerable than those in the tropics: easier hunting. there are also less food choices in cold climes. and slow reproducing island species are extremely vulnerable to extinction just by being small in number to begin with
  • by DerangedAlchemist ( 995856 ) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @01:40PM (#19840181)

    what about the dodo

    That's well known. Pigs and dogs brought by people ate them and their eggs. Slow flightless birds made easy targets. People tried eating them, but found they weren't very tasty.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"