July 11, 2007—Talk about a mammoth surprise.
A Russian hunter traipsing through Russia's remote Arctic Yamalo-Nenetsk region in May noticed what he thought was a reindeer carcass sticking out of the damp snow. (See a map of Russia and its remote Siberian regions.)
On closer inspection, the "reindeer" turned out to be a 40,000-year-old baby mammoth, perfectly encased in ice.
The six-month-old female mammoth is the most well-preserved example yet found of the beasts, which lumbered across the Earth during the last Ice Age, 1.8 million to 11,500 years ago.
"It's a lovely little baby mammoth indeed, found in perfect condition," Alexei Tikhonov, deputy director of the Russian Academy of Science's Zoological Institute, told the Reuters news agency.
At 110 pounds (50 kilograms) and 51 inches long (130 centimeters long), the baby is the size of a large dog, Reuters reported.
Scientists are banking on the female—named "Lyuba" after the Russian hunter's wife—to reveal some of the genetic secrets of the prehistoric giants.
That's because Lyuda's excellent state—intact except for her shaggy locks—makes her a veritable treasure trove for research.
Emerging DNA technologies have already allowed some scientists to consider resurrecting the mammoth. (Read about the resurrection debate.)
Meanwhile, the newfound body will undergo three-dimensional computer mapping at Japan's Jikei University, followed by an autopsy at the Zoological Museum in St. Petersburg. The Ice Age toddler will end up on display in the Russian Arctic town of Salekhard.
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