October 4, 2009

Perfectly Preserved Baby Mammoth Ready For Her Close-Up

An infant woolly mammoth that has been frozen for 40,000 years in the Siberian permafrost is so well preserved that there are still traces of her mother's milk in her stomach.

Three years after reindeer herders dug up the fossil, Lyuba is going to Chicago to star in a mammoth and mastodons display at the Field Museum.

The exhibition debuts March 5 and will be open to the public until September 6.

"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," stated lead curator Daniel Fisher, a geological sciences professor at the University of Michigan who is examining the remains.

"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," Fisher announced to reporters.

The baby's hump behaved like a furnace to help preserve body temperature in cold temperatures, which backs up the concept that mammoths were born in the spring.

Lyuba is undamaged enough to hopefully provide DNA, but "no one is on the threshold of cloning at this point," Fisher said.

Lyuba is going on a 10-city tour and will end up at the Natural History Museum of London in 2014.


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