In 2007, a Siberian caribou-herder came across a remarkably well preserved, frozen baby mammoth. Lyuba (Lee-OO-bah), as the mammoth came to be known (after the herder’s wife), is thought to have died around 40,000 years ago. She is the best specimen of a mammoth ever found.
By studying the place in which Lyuba was found, the team concluded that her body had been exposed for a year before its discovery.
Scientists discovered a store of fat cells at the back of Lyuba’s neck, which would have been used to provide energy for keeping the baby mammoth warm in its cold surroundings.
Lyuba was so well preserved that scientists even found milk that she’d suckled from her mother in her stomach.
A REMOTE LOCATION
A team of scientists camped at the place Lyuba was found a year after her discovery to gather more clues about her life and death.
Following Lyuba’s discovery, an international team of scientists set to work to build up a picture of what her life would have been like. Scientists from Russia, France, Japan, and the United States took samples and X-rays. They all concluded that Lyuba was in healthy condition before she died and that her death was the result of her accidentally slipping into mud.
Scientists hope to bring mammoths back to life by using DNA from frozen bodies.
TESTS, TESTS, TESTS
Lyuba underwent numerous tests, first at a medical school in Japan, and then back in Russia. Her state of preservation was amazing: scientists were able to look closely at her skin, her eyes, her teeth, her organs, and her eyelashes. Even some of her fur was still present. Allowing her body to defrost slightly and for a short time meant that tissue samples could be removed. The scientists dealing with her wore protective clothing to prevent contamination.
DID YOU KNOW?
■ Lyuba is small. She is just 4 ft long by 3 ft wide (1.2 m x 90 cm).
■ Scientists believe Lyuba was about 30 days old when she died.
■ The mammoth may have died from suffocation after being trapped in mud.
■ Lyuba had “milk tusks”—small tusks that fall out before the adult tusks grow.