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Posted on Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 10:52 a.m.

U-M paleontologist says 'meat is still pink' on Woolly Mammoth carcass he helped unearth

By Kellie Woodhouse

In the northern expanses of Siberia, a scavenger looking for an ivory tusk to trade on the black market found what he was looking for... and much more.


From Animal Planet, a historic photo of what a Woolly Mammoth would have looked like.

The person discovered that the tusk was actually attached to a young Woolly Mammoth, estimated to be between 10,000- and 30,000-years-old, that had been nearly perfectly preserved in the icy, frozen ground near the shores of the Arctic Ocean in Northern Asia.

It turns out the treasure discovered was worth much more than money: It can provide answers. Real, concrete answers on what contributed to the extinction of mammoths.

"This is almost like nothing else that we have ever seen before," said University of Michigan paleontologist and researcher Daniel Fisher, who is helping other scientists investigate the carcass.

According to Fisher's research, just three preserved mammoth carcasses have been discovered in the past decade.

"This is one animal. It's one animal's death but it can give us insight into the kinds of things that were happening in those environments and those times and that can shed further light on the cause of extinction."

Fisher and his crew of 15 excavators, scientists and media specialists —the excavation of the mammoth was funded in part by the BBC and Discovery Channel, which filmed the process— spent a week in late February and early March investigating the mammoth carcass, which they named Yuka because it was discovered in the Yakutia region of northern Siberia.

The animal's discovery is significant because markings on the carcass indicate it was first attacked by a predator —probably lions— then broke its leg running from the predator. Fisher believes that as the mammoth was being pursued by lions, humans scared the predators away and killed the mammoth themselves, severing certain body parts but never returning for the rest of the carcass.

"That in itself is part of the interesting story that this specimen tells," he said. "The lions were undoubtedly ready to have at it and have their feast when it seems that early humans may have scared the lions off the animal and they might have done the actual killing of the animal and the initial butchering."

IMG_5644 Courtesy of FLatreilleMammuthusMCE[1].jpg

Daniel Fisher helped investigate this Woolly Mammoth carcass discovered in Siberia.

Photo courtesy of U-M

Fisher believes humans killed the mammoth because markings on its bones are not consistent with the markings a lions' deep teeth would create, but instead with a human-wielded knife.

"The marks are suggestive of human activity," he said. "It doesn’t look like wolves, it doesn’t look like lions, it doesn't look like bears."

Fisher said the level of preservation of the animal's carcass is unusually high.

"The meat is still pink. It looks like meat that you could get in the grocery store," he said. "The skin is still supple. It feels like hair."

Because certain parts of the animal were removed by its human predators, Fisher and his crew are uncertain about the mammoth's sex and exact age. A paleontology lab is conducting forensic tests to find out, Fisher says.

Fisher plans to return to Siberia this summer to investigate Yuka further and explore the area for similar carcasses. His team plans to conduct a full CT scan on the animal.

"That would give us information on the internal condition," Fisher said. Information about the animal's health, what time of year it died and how it fit into a human diet could be critical in learning more about factors leading to the Woolly Mammoth's extinction.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.


Dave Thomas

Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

Dan, Great job. Keep up the good work. I hope this gets into many classrooms around the world....Dave

Ann English

Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 8:38 p.m.

" animal's death..." Death entered the world through human sin (Romans 5:12). That woolly mammoth was preserved through burial in the worldwide Flood, which put an end to the subtropical climate that was all over the world, even at the poles.

Ivor Ivorsen

Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 9:11 p.m.

...and we wonder why so many other countries are kicking our butts in science education.


Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 4:44 p.m.

A DEPARTED SOUL : Soul, or Spirit the vital, or animating principle that is the characteristic of Living Things. I try to find Soul, or Spirit in the living matter or living substance that is called Protoplasm. All the cells, tissues like meat and skin, and organ systems are built by Protoplasm of the Living Thing. I consider that this Living matter is of Spiritual nature as it shows the potentiality for being 'Immutable', 'Imperishable', 'Immortal', and 'Etrenal'. While Evolutionary Biologists constantly speculate about the changing forms of Living Things, they are totally silent about 'unchanging' nature of its Living matter. The 'pinkness' of the flesh of this Mammoth speaks about the potentiality of its Living matter. I read reports that scientists could thaw bacteria recovered from polar ice and made them to grow again. The bacteria have survived in the frozen ice for a very long time from our understanding of the age of that ice sample. I like the Spirit of this finding, the Soul that survives after the death of the Living form.


Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 4:02 p.m.

The history of found frozen mammoth carcasses goes back nearly 100 years. One wonders why it's only mammoths and not other megafauna. BTW: finding mention of U of M scientists in recent major research stories isn't unusual at all.

Brad Jensen

Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

A lot of jokes about Mammoth burgers, but just think - beef, pork and chicken has been around for thousand of years, but the mammoth was our preferred source of meat since the down of humanity. Since humankind was raised on mammoth meat, what are the chances that our taste buds adapted over those millions of years to prefer mammoth? Personally, I would think it would be fantastic to see a cloned Mammoth walk the earth again, but if there needs to be a business reason to do it (McMammoth's?) then so be it :)


Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 11:43 a.m.

I see that someone has gone back and replaced the "husks" in the story with "tusks."

Steve McQueen

Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 9:26 a.m.

mmm tasty!


Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 12:44 a.m.

"It doesn't look wolves, it doesn't look like lions, it doesn't look like bears." Are you sure he didn't say "look like wolves" rather than just "look wolves?"

Kellie Woodhouse

Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 1:46 a.m.

Yes, he did. Thanks!

Spicy Whitey

Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 12:09 a.m.

Mammoth! The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast.


Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 9:14 p.m.

One was sighted near North Campus being chased by a bobcat...


Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 9:08 p.m.

@Stephen Landes Re: An "ivory husk" is, "The leaves that surround an ear of white corn........" I knew that! You think I didn't know that? Actually, if you google "Husk vs Tusk," you can see a nice painting of this typo in action — an elephant sporting corn stalks where its tusks should be. Hey, you can find ANYTHING online!


Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 7:55 p.m.

Lets make a burger!!! ;)


Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 5:56 p.m.

What the Billy H*** is an ivory husk?

Stephen Landes

Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 8:57 p.m.

The leaves that surround an ear of white corn........


Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 5:53 p.m.

A U-M professor involved in this research project in Russia (!), of all places, and no aggrieved Michigan taxpayer has yet to complain about his tax dollars being wasted yet again? No one to point out how this kind of nonsense only causes tuition to go up even more? This is very disappointing. Where are the guardians of the state's money today?

Gene Alloway

Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 4:54 p.m.

er major cause, not manor cause.

Gene Alloway

Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 4:53 p.m.

No one is pointing this "nonsense" out because it is not the cause of tuition going up. Continual decreases in state support is one manor cause, and increasing health care costs another, and increasing administrative staff and costs (some necessary, many not) are a third. And doing supporting scientific works, like paleontological excavations, is part of what a modern university and a modern nation does. What do you think a university should be? A big school for only MBA's, lawyers, and Doctors, with a football team?

David Paris

Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 11:15 p.m.

No kidding, Jon! It gets old, I thought I was the only one tired of the nonsensical micro-managing. Thanks for your post.

Laura Jones

Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 5:42 p.m.

Truly exciting discovery! Please keep reporting on what develops from this find!

Kai Petainen

Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 4:46 p.m.

wow. what an incredibly cool story. question -- in the photo of the mammoth, it's hard to tell the scale. how big is that?

Jimmy McNulty

Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 11:20 a.m.

Good question. The floor looks like 6"X6" parquet blocks, so 5 or 5 1/2' long, maybe?

Ron Granger

Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 4:04 p.m.

Did someone say pink meat? Somewhere a Tyson executive is twitching and wondering how he can package this up in ground beef to make a few more cents per pound from unsuspecting "beef" consumers.


Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 4:17 p.m.

Better check the quality and quantity of cholesterol and fats in the meat first. Maybe we can learn what hormones and preservatives were used back thenl


Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 3:33 p.m.

meat was still pink but how did it taste?

David Paris

Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 11:05 p.m.

Like chicken, of course, what would you think?


Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 4:14 p.m.

Did they cook it first?


Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 3:49 p.m.

another siberian mammoth unearthed early in the 20th century ( at Beresovka i believe) was tasted by the excavators ...who got seriously ill ( not surprising, given that the meat had thawed and frozen countless times )..


Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.

let the cloning begin....

Steve McQueen

Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 9:28 a.m.

yah is like da bad Swarzenegger movie


Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 3:52 p.m.

A guy seriously involved in such prehistoric cloning issues ( and the son of another whose work inspired 'jurassic park'') was almost hired by the UM anthropology dept a few years ago. It would have been quite cool to see mammoth/neanderthal hunting reenactments in the 'big house'....but alas.