Dwarf mammoths from Wrangel island: what is preserved in the archive and genome

© RIA Novosti / Alina Palanisamy latest woolly mammoths on Earth lived on Wrangel island, RussiaDwarf mammoths from Wrangel island: what is preserved in the archive and genome© RIA Novosti / Alina Polyanina

In the extreme North-East of Russia, on an island in the Arctic ocean lived the last mammoths on Earth. They were smaller than their mainland brethren went extinct, when Egypt is already ruled by the pharaohs. These mammoth genome decoded, but the secret of death never revealed.

For the «corpse of a mammoth»

In October 1937, from Wrangel island to the mainland, received a telegram, which reported on the discovery of a six-meter «and a body of a mammoth». Detailed description left no doubt that a prehistoric animal is well preserved, apparently in its entirety. And as in Russia in 1909 had not unearthed the whole carcasses of mammoths, Academy of Sciences of the USSR decided to send to Chukotka scientists. The head of the expedition appointed young Professor-paleontologist Novel Gekker.

In addition to reducing the size of the individuals, found out that the coat color of the last mammoths were certainly dark. Bright individuals if met, is very rare. There is evidence that the island animals were covered with a thin soft coat, which poorly protected them from the cold that they have weakened olfactory receptors, the urine was less smelly (this could affect sexual behavior). Among the most recent results — conclusions about the social structure of the communities of mammoths. Like elephants, they lived in herds dominated by a matriarch. Males ousted from the herd, and if they belonged to the more experienced brethren, then wandered by themselves, and therefore often dying, falling into a natural trap. This explains why scientists often come across the well-preserved skeletons of mammoths for young males.

To cross a mammoth with an elephant

In 1938, preparing for an expedition to Wrangel island, our paleontologists have proposed to clone a mammoth. They expected to find a mate. She could take the egg and transplanted into the womb of the Indian elephant. And if found and the male, the fertilized egg would have brought a real mammoth. Paleontologist, later academician Yuri Orlov, refused to go to the expedition because of its dubious, to have been a great fun of these fantasies in his memoirs.

Extinct was idea to clone mammoths have been revived after 80 years thanks to the genome. Scientists from Harvard are going to insert the genes of a dwarf species into the embryo of an elephant with the editor of CRISPR genome and transplant it into the uterus of a surrogate mother elephant. The result is not a full mammoth, but a hybrid with an elephant, which has been dubbed the «monoplane». To begin the experiment, the researchers promised this year, but the task proved more difficult than expected.