Russian media outlets are reporting that an 11 year-old boy named Yevgeny Salinder has uncovered the remains of a wooly mammoth that died about 30,000 years ago. After stumbling upon the extinct animal, Yevgeny ran home to tell his parents, who in turned alerted the local paleontologists (well, as local as these things can get in Siberia, anyway). And as their preliminary analysis has revealed, it may be one of the most pristine remnants of a wooly mammoth ever discovered.
The remains were found about three kilometers from the Sopkarga polar weather station in Taymyr, Russia, where Yevgeny lives with his parents. The area is in the far north of Russia in the most northern part of the Eurasian continent.
Once the paleontologists started digging around the remains, it became obvious fairly quickly that it wasn't just bits of fragment or a badly decayed carcass, but the entire body of an approximately 15 year-old male that weighed half a ton. And incredibly, they were able to gather well-preserved fragments of its skin, meat, fat — and even several organs.
Because the remains were buried in the permafrost, the scienctists had to use traditional tools such as axes and picks, plus a specially designed device that allowed them to thaw ice layers with the help of steam. And even with the help of these tools, it still took them a week to get the entire thing out of the ground.
Preliminary analysis indicates that the mammoth featured a camel-like hump — a fatty deposit that would have made life considerably easier for the ice age-era mammal. This may help to confirm a long standing hypothesis that mammoths did in fact feature such humps.
Speaking to Russia's Pravda, the deputy director of the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexei Tikhonov said that, "For the first time, it was seen in Paleolithic drawings, and everyone tried to guess why the animals are humped. Scientists believed that it was so because the animals had very large neural spines of the thoracic vertebrae. Now it turns out that it is not true to fact. We can see that this animal was very well adapted to the conditions of the north. The animals were saving fat for winter."
The next stop for the wooly mammoth, which has been named "Zhenya" (a short form of Yevgeny, the name of the boy who found it) will be at the Zoological and Paleontological Institutes of Moscow and St. Petersburg where further analysis will be conducted.