News

A Frozen Wonder

An 11-year-old uncovers a woolly mammoth in the permafrost of central Russia

October 08, 2012
SERGEI GORBUNOV—INTERNATIONAL MAMMOTH COMMITTEE IN RUSSIA, HO/AP

Russian scientists believe Jenya to be one of the best-preserved bodies of a grown mammoth ever discovered.

It began as just an ordinary day for Yevgeny Salinder. The 11-year-old boy was taking a walk near his home in central Russia when suddenly the extraordinary happened. Yevgeny found animal limbs sticking out of the frozen ground. The boy told his parents, who immediately contacted scientists. When experts began digging out the buried creature, they discovered it was a 30,000-year-old woolly mammoth. Scientists say it is one of the greatest woolly mammoth discoveries in more than a century. 

Extraordinary Discovery
 
The mammoth has been named Jenya, which is a nickname for the discoverer’s Russian name, Yevgeny. Scientists say Jenya died at the age of 16. He is 6 feet 6 inches tall, and weighs 1,100 pounds. Since some mammoths may have been as tall as 13 feet, scientists are taking note of Jenya’s size. “He was pretty small for his age,” says Professor Alexei Tikhonov of the Zoology Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia. What is also unusual about this mammoth is his missing left tusk. The loss of a tusk would have made fighting difficult for Jenya. Experts think a crack in his remaining tusk means that the mammoth may have been hunted by humans. 
 
The well-preserved state of Jenya is what makes this discovery especially extraordinary. Much of the carcass still has scraps of flesh, fur and organs intact. The mammoth also has a massive hump of fat on his back. The fat helped mammoths keep warm during the frigid Arctic winters. The condition of Jenya’s body will allow scientists and experts to learn more about woolly mammoths. With enough information, one day it may be possible to recreate this prehistoric wonder. 
 

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