A woolly mammoth carcass recently unearthed in Siberia could be the best hope yet for scientists aiming to clone the massive, long-extinct beast.
The mammoth specimen, which was discovered in 2013 in a remote part of Siberia, oozed a deep red liquid when it was first discovered. Scientists have now analyzed the mammoth to understand how it lived and died and whether it will yield enough undamaged DNA to make cloning the extinct creature a reality.
Details from the mammoth autopsy will air in the Smithsonian Channel special called “How to Clone a Woolly Mammoth,” on Nov. 29 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. (Warning: This story contains some spoilers about the Smithsonian Channel special.) [See Images from the Woolly Mammoth Autopsy]
In May 2013, scientists from the Siberian Northeastern Federal University crossed the icy expanse of Siberia to reach Maly Lyakhovsky Island in the far north, where rumor had it a mammoth was lurking in the permafrost. At the time, two giant tusks were poking out of the ground, but when the researchers dug further, they found an almost complete mammoth, with three legs, most of the body, part of the head and the trunk still intact.
During excavations, the carcass oozed a dark red liquid that may have been fresh mammoth blood. In fact, the mammoth meat was reportedly fresh enough that one of the scientists took a bite of it.
“This is definitely one of the best samples people have ever found,” Insung Hwang, a cloning scientist at the SOOAM Biotech Research Center, said in the show.
In the past, mammoths have yielded only a few dried specks of blood, and none of them left enough intact DNA for a cloning experiment.