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Mammoth Replice A worker checks a life-size replica of a mammoth in a museum. (Jonathan Blair / Corbis)

A Mammoth Discovery

A boy in Russia unearths one of the best-preserved woolly mammoths ever found

By Jennifer Marino Walters | November 26 , 2012
<p> PHOTO: The mammoth was named Zhenya, which is Yevgeny’s nickname. (ITAR-TASS / Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences / Newscom)</p><p> MAP: Yevgeny Salinder, 11, found the mammoth near the Yenisey River in Russia. (Jim McMahon)</p>

PHOTO: The mammoth was named Zhenya, which is Yevgeny’s nickname. (ITAR-TASS / Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences / Newscom)

MAP: Yevgeny Salinder, 11, found the mammoth near the Yenisey River in Russia. (Jim McMahon)

An 11-year-old boy was taking a walk near his home in Russia when he stumbled upon a huge discovery—the frozen remains of a woolly mammoth. Scientists say it is the best-preserved mammoth found in more than a century.

Yevgeny Salinder lives near a polar weather station in Russia’s northern Taymyr Peninsula. He was strolling along the Yenisey River in late August when he smelled a foul odor. When he looked down, he saw the mammoth’s heels sticking out of the ground. Yevgeny told his parents, who notified scientists.

It took about a week for scientists to remove the remains using axes, picks, and steam. The remains include the right half of the mammoth’s body (with soft tissue, skin, and hair), its skull with one ear, a nearly five-foot-long tusk, and various bones and organs. The mammoth remains were sent by helicopter to the city of Dudinka, where scientists will study them.

Scientists have already determined that the mammoth was a male, aged 15 or 16 when it died around 30,000 years ago. It is the most well-preserved mammoth found since 1901, and the second-best-preserved mammoth body ever discovered.

“So far we can say it is the mammoth of the century,” Alexei Tikhonov, director of the Zoological Museum (part of the Russian Academy of Sciences) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, told the AFP global news agency. Tikhonov is one of the scientists who helped dig out the mammoth remains.

ICE AGE CREATURES

Picture a giant, furry elephant. That’s what a woolly mammoth looked like. Woolly mammoths lived during the Ice Age, from about 1.65 million years ago to about 10,000 years ago. Woolly mammoths were about 11 feet tall and weighed up to 6 tons—as much as a bus!

Most woolly mammoths lived in cold, dry climates. To help them survive the frigid temperatures, they had layers of fat beneath their skin. The mammoth Yevgeny found once had a hump made of fat tissue.

“It was storing large fat deposits for the winter,” Tikhonov said.

The mammoth, named Zhenya after Yevgeny’s nickname, will go on display at the Taymyr Natural History Museum after it is studied.

The Russian Academy of Sciences, together with Kinki University in Japan, had already been planning to clone a mammoth. Tikhonov said they might be interested in trying to clone Zhenya, but that it would be difficult.

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