An extremely well preserved juvenile woolly mammoth, with its striking strawberry-blonde hair, has been discovered in a frozen ice cliff in Siberia. Analysis done on the mammoth shows signs of a lion attack, followed by early human scavengers.
Scientists from the Mammuthus organization completed their first analysis of the mammoth in March, which they retrieved from local tusk hunters. The young mammoth, currently estimated to be between the ages of two and four years old, died at least 10,000 years ago, and has been given the name Yuka.
The mammoth body has many details, such as cuts and broken or missing bones. These give clues as to how this animal lived through past conflicts and ultimately met its fate, and even the possibility of being the first mammoth to be found that has evidence of human intervention.
"It appears that Yuka was pursued by one or more lions or another large field, judging from deep, unhealed scratches in the hide and bite marks on the tail. Yuka then apparently fell, breaking one of the lower hind legs. At this point, humans may have moved in to control the carcass, butchering much of the animal and removing parts that they would use immediately.", explained Daniel Fisher, curator and director of the University of Michigan's Museum of Paleontology, to Discovery News.
The most drastic marks along the body of the mammoth were not those of a cave lion, but something never before seen on a mammoth. A long straight slice in the animal's back and a plethora of serrated cuts, hinting at the use of saw-like stone tools.
Researchers say that this, in all likelihood, points to humans stealing the kill from cave lions. This observation is strengthened by the fact that the mammoth is missing quite a lot of its meat, despite the exterior not showing many signs of a predator simply gnashing at it with its teeth. Parts missing include many of its organs, vertebrae, ribs, and meat from the upper portions of the legs. The carcass was then abandoned, where it resided for 10,000 years in its icy tomb.
"They may, in fact, have reburied the rest of the carcass to keep it in reserve for possible later use. What remains now would then be 'leftovers' that were never retrieved.", Fisher continued.
The mammoth is proving vital in furthering research of mammoth DNA, and how it correlates with eye and hair colour. Mammoths have been a hot topic in the past several months for the new possibility of bringing the species back to life. They are prime candidates for re-introducing because of specimens found with their DNA intact, frozen in the ice.