Woolly Mammoth Update 2013
updated 11 June 2013

Scientists in a remote Siberian island have recovered the frozen remains of a female woolly mammoth specimen that is so well preserved that they are able to collect samples of blood from beneath it.  The Russian researchers are now hoping to collaborate with Kevin Campbell, because of the analysis he did of mammoth hemoglobin first published in 2010. 

Return of the Woolly Mammoth? 2010

posted 5 May 2010 by Chris Rutkowski

An international team of researchers has ‘resurrected’ authentic woolly mammoth hemoglobin—the blood protein responsible for delivering oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. The research has discovered special evolutionary adaptations that allowed the iconic Ice Age creatures to cool down their extremities in harsh Arctic conditions and minimise costly heat loss.

We’ve managed to analyse living attributes of an animal that hasn’t existed for thousands of years,” says team leader Kevin Campbell of the University of Manitoba. “This is quite amazing, given that biochemical features do not fossilize.

It has been remarkable to bring a complex protein from an extinct species back to life and discover important changes not found in any living species,” adds collaborator Alan Cooper, director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, University of Adelaide. “This is true paleobiology.

Writing today in the journal Nature Genetics, the team describes sequencing hemoglobin genes from the DNA of three permafrost- preserved Siberian mammoths that lived between 25,000 and 43,000 years ago. The sequences were converted into RNA and inserted into modern-day E. coli bacteria, which then faithfully manufactured the mammoth protein.

The resulting hemoglobin molecules are no different than ‘going back in time’ and taking a blood sample from a real mammoth,” explains Campbell.

The team used structural modelling and a battery of modern scientific tests to uncover unique molecular and biochemical properties that helped mammoths to withstand extreme environmental cold.

This is the first time we’ve been able to study biological processes of an extinct animal in precisely the same way we would for living species,” Campbell adds