Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

September 20, 2012

Morris: Mammoth remains found in Siberia

Ben Morris, MA, RPA
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — For those of you who may have missed it, scientists have recovered the incredibly well preserved remains of a woolly mammoth in Siberia.

It is hoped the genetic material or DNA of this prehistoric elephant-like animal, can be cloned, as in the 1993 science fiction film ÒJurassic ParkÓ by Steven Spielberg.

The last dinosaurs became extinct about ten million years before the emergence of these large mammals. According to Adrian Lister, a researcher in Paleontology at University College London, and Paul Bahn, an independent archaeologist, the ancestry of mammoths, can be traced back through time to at least fifty-five million years.

Mammoths were related to modern elephants but came from a separate branch of the family tree. The first mammoths arose in the tropical woodlands of Africa, but later migrated into Europe and Siberia and eventually into North America.

With the increasing cold weather of the Ice Age the Siberian (or woolly) mammoths in the northern latitudes adapted for survival in Arctic temperatures, in part, by evolving thick hairy coats, smaller ears and shorter tails. The heyday of the woolly mammoth was the middle of the last Ice Age, some 50,000 years ago.

Remember Dolly the sheep that was cloned in Scotland back in 1996? Dolly was the first mammal to be cloned. The donor cell was taken from a mammary gland. Researchers said they couldn't think of more impressive pair of mammary glands than Dolly Parton's, hence the name.

Dolly lived for six years and gave birth to six lambs after being bred to a Welsh Mountain ram. Dolly had to be euthanized because she was suffering from a progressive lung disease. Since then, several large mammals including horses and bulls have been cloned successfully.      

Native Americans using atlatls or spear-throwers hunted mammoths and mastodons in North America. Spear points used by these ancient hunters have been found throughout Indiana including Decatur County.

Ben Morris, MA, RPA is an archaeological and historical columnist for the Daily News. He can be reached at 812-932-0298 or at bjmorris1935@gmail.com.