Baby Mammoth CT Scan Reveals Internal Organs

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The mammoth calf probably had milk for its last meal, because, like elephant offspring, it wouldn't have been able to digest any other food until it was at least a year old.

The new findings represent only the preliminary results of the CT scans, Tikhonov pointed out.

A team lead by Naoki Suzuki of the Jikei University School of Medicine is still working to complete 3-D images of Lyuba's entire body as well as individual body parts such the organs and muscles.

The team hopes those images will be ready by the end of May.

The next stage of the study will involve analysis of tissue and bone samples based at the Zoological Museum in St. Petersburg.

These biopsies should provide researchers a wealth of information, Tikhonov said.

As well as giving insights into the structure of mammoth organs, glands, and muscles, "prehistoric viruses may be preserved within these tissues," he said.

"We now have probably the first chance to take fragments of DNA from ancient viruses from inside [an animal]," Tikhonov added.

Scientists are also keen to study the contents of the mammoth's intestines, "because inside there will be the pollen and spores of plants, and so then we can reconstruct the landscapes of this time," Tikhonov said.

Cloned to Life?

In addition, labs in the United States, Canada, and Russia are set to work on DNA samples from the fossil in a bid to decode the complete genome of mammoths.

Techniques developed during this genetic research could one day help in bringing extinct species back from the dead, Tikhonov suggests.

He sees no point in attempting to revive the woolly mammoth, because the type of environment and climate it needs no longer exist. But other disappeared animals could be accommodated, he said. (Related: "Mammoths to Return? DNA Advances Spur Resurrection Debate" [June 25, 2007].)

Possible candidates include the Stellers sea cow, a manatee-like sea mammal from the North Pacific that was hunted to extinction in the 1760s, and giant flightless birds such as New Zealand's moa, which also fell victim to humans, he said.

Lyuba's long-term legacy, Tikhonov said, could help "mankind to pay his debt to the extinct animals of historical times."

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