Scientists rebuild part of woolly mammoth.
In a world first, German scientists say they have reconstructed a key sequence in the genome of the woolly mammoth, enabling them to show that the extinct beast’s closest modern relative is the Asian elephant.
But by using their new approach to gently amplify the ancient DNA, Hofreiter’s team were able to get 5,000 base pairs, even though their sample, too, was degraded. Woolly mammoths once roamed far and wide across the northern reaches of Eurasia and North America, but no trace of them survives beyond the end of the last Ice Age, some 11,000 years ago.
Their heavy layers of fat, their long brown top hair and thick woolly undercoat were superb for bitter cold but left them ill-equipped for a warmer climate and the rise of Homo sapiens. They are among the best-researched animals of the Ice Age, thanks to the preservation of carcasses in frozen ground and the pictures of the creatures made by Stone Age artists in European caves. The bone used in the latest research came from the banks of the Berelekh River in Yakutia, where thousands of bones, belonging to some 160 mammoths, have been recovered.