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Latest Research Findings

Baby Lyuba ~ Fantastic Research!

Published on July 16, 2014 under News
Baby Lyuba ~ Fantastic Research!

The following article was taken from Science World Report and can be seen here.

We have one of two replicas of Baby Lyuba on site!  Come take a tour, see Lyuba and learn more about these magnificent animals.

Siberian Woolly Mammoth Babies Reveal the Cause of Their Violent Deaths with CT Scans

Baby Lyuba at the Mammoth Site

Baby Lyuba at the Mammoth Site

Computed tomography uses x-rays to measure varying densities in solid objects. Scientists can then strip away different layers by removing certain density values. The leftmost image shows Lyuba's bare skin, the middle removes fat, muscle, and skin, and the large image on the right is bone and mineral deposits.

The remains of two newborn woolly mammoths preserved in the Siberian Arctic are revealing new and unprecedented details about the early development of prehistoric pachyderms. By using CT scans, researchers have revealed new information about woolly mammoths and how the two newborns died in the first place.

Named Lyuba and Khroma, the two newborn mammoths died at the ages of one and two months, respectively. They’re the most complete and best-preserved baby mammoth specimens ever found. The two newborns lived more than 40,000 years ago and belonged to mammoth populations that were separated by about 3,000 miles. Lyuba was discovered by reindeer herders in 2007 while Khroma was found in 2008, frozen in permafrost in an upright position.

The researchers conducted CT scans of Lyuba using a scanner designed for finding flaws in vehicle transmissions at Ford Motor Co.’s Nondestructive Evaluation Laboratory. In contrast, Khroma’s CT scans were conducted at two French hospitals.

“These two exquisitely preserved baby mammoths are like two snapshots in time,” said Zachary T. Calamari, one of the co-authors of the new paper detailing the findings, in a news release. “We can use them to understand how factors like location and age influenced the way mammoths grew into the huge adults that captivate us today.”

With the scans, the researchers found that Khroma had a brain that was slightly smaller than that of a newborn elephant. This suggests that mammoths may have had a shorter gestation period than elephants. In addition, the researchers found that both of the newborns died after inhaling mud and then suffocating.

The researchers believe that Lyuba died in a lake, since sediments found in her respiratory tract include fine-grained vivianite, which can commonly be found in cold, oxygen-poor settings such as lake bottoms. It’s possible that she crashed through the ice while crossing a lake during the spring melt.

Khroma, in contrast, likely was with her mother right before her death. The researchers found that the mammoth had been nursing less than an hour before her death; in addition, by examining sediments, the scientists believe that the mammoth likely drowned in a river. It’s possible that a riverbank collapsed and caused Khroma to plunge into the water.

The findings reveal a bit more about these baby mammoths and their patterns of development. This, in turn, can tell scientists a bit more about woolly mammoths in general and how they grew up into the massive adults that once roamed the Arctic.

The findings are published in the Journal of Paleontology.