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The studies of the Yuka mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) from northern Yakutia, Russia: the goals and overview of the first analyses and results.

  • The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, SD, Inc.
Scientic Annals, School of Geology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece
VIth International Conference on Mammoths and their Relatives, Grevena - Siatista Special Volume 102 120 Thessaloniki, 2014
The studies of the Yuka mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) from northern Yakutia, Russia:
the goals and overview of the rst analyses and results
Albert PROTOPOPOV, Valery PLOTNIKOV, Alexei TIKHONOV, Ekaterina PETROVA, and Innokentiy PAVLOV
A partially frozen and mummied carcass of woolly
mammoth, Mammuthus primigenius was found on the
continental coast of the Dmitry Laptev Strait, Yakutia, Russia,
by the Yukagir community members in 2010. The site was
discovered in the rich bone-bearing Pleistocene yedoma
(permafrost) deposits of the Oyagossky Yar, approximately 30
km west from the mouth of Kondratieva River. The calibrated
radiocarbon date of the rib is 39,440-38,850 calBP (1950)
(GrA-53289) which corresponds to the Marine Isotope Stage
3 (MIS-3, or Karginski Interstadial) (Boeskorov et al., 2013).
The body of the mummy was discovered lying on its belly,
with the right leg tucked under it, resting on the ice ledge in
the upper part of thawing slope. It was established that the
mummy was incomplete, missing most of its vertebral spine,
ribs, both femora and left humerus, and all the muscles
and inner organs of the torso. The hide with fur coloration
varying from very light tan (lower legs) to light ochre – dark
brown (upper legs and lower anks) missed two large parts
of the skin on the back and neck and bore rugged cuts that
were not compatible with cut marks produced by Paleolithic
or Mesolithic tool blades (Maschenko et al., 2012a).
The examination of exterior and interior morphology that we
performed in 2012-2013 revealed that no bones (cranium,
mandible, neck vertebra, few ribs, scapula, humerus, etc.)
had any signs of pathologic or abnormal growths. The Yuka
mammoth has, however, a combination of characters that
could be unique in comparison to other known specimens,
thus, signicantly expanding our knowledge on the
individual variation of woolly mammoth. These features
include the brain anatomy, rates of the molariform teeth and
tusks development, body size, number of the nail plates on
the feet, trunk morphology, hide fur coloration and others.
Despite the revealed damage, the Yuka mammoth had intact
trunk, lips, tail, and left ear, as well as breast nipples and a
temporal gland on the left side of the head, available for the
study. The trunk with long dorsal and ventral processes, which
are characteristic for M. primigenius, appeared to be complete,
thus allowing its comparison with a few other specimens.
The cranium and mandible CT scan performed in Yakutsk,
Russia, conrmed the initial identication of the teeth
as DP4/M1 in wear and presence of the un-erupted M2
in alveoli, which corresponds to 8-9.5 years old Asian
elephants studied by Roth and Shoshani (1984). Taking
into consideration the fact that mammoth DP2-DP4
replacement occurred at much younger age than in the
African and Asian elephants (Maschenko, 2002), the Yuka
mammoth age could be lowered down to approximately
6-8 years (Maschenko et al., 2012b). The immature state of
the long bones, scapulae and pelvis, none of which have
fused epiphysis (or apophysis) indicate that the animal was
very young.
The small, permanent tusks protruding from the bony
alveoli for just about 3 cm retained “two nested in cones”
conguration, which was observed in very young mammoth
individuals. Considering occurrences of bilateral tusklesness
in female Asian elephant, this case of relatively late” tusk
development might be common in the woolly mammoth
females, and can be attributed to the dimorphism within the
species. This under-development of the tusks, along with
presence of the genital opening in the Yuka mammoth hide
and the morphology of the skin folds around it, supports
the initial identication of the Yuka mammoth as a female.
The CT scans performed in Yakutsk and the National
Research Centre "Kurchatov Institute" in Moscow, Russia,
in 2012-2013 revealed a relatively good condition of the
Yuka mammoth brain and at least one anatomical feature,
ramication of the arteria basilaris, separating it from the
African elephant (Kharlamova et al., 2013). A careful brain
conservation procedure carried out by the research team
in 2012 (Kurtova et al., 2012) allowed analysis of the brain
gross morphology.
This analysis showed that the brain of the Yuka mammoth
was similar to that of the modern elephants. It had slightly
asymmetrical hemisphere volumes and weight and
size corresponding to those of a 9-11 years old female
African elephant. These ndings indicate that the teeth
development and replacement rates were accelerated in
relation to the body growth, which was accompanied by a
normal, similar to the African elephant growth of the brain.
Boeskorov, G. G., Protopopov, A. V., Mashchenko, E. N., Potapova, O.
R., Kuznetsova, T. V. Plotnikov, V. V., Grigoryev, S. E., Belolyubskii, I. N.,
Tomshin, M. D., Shchelchkova, M. V. Kolesov, S. D., van der Plicht, I.,
Tikhonov, A. N., 2013. New ndings of unique preserved fossil mammals
in the permafrost of Yakutia. Doklady Biological Sciences 452, 291–295.
Kharlamova, A., Saveliev, S., Boeskorov, G., Ushakov, V., Maschenko, E.,
2013. Preliminary analyses of brain gross morphology of the woolly
mammoth, Mammuthus primigenius, from Yakutia, Russia. 73rd SVP
Annual Meeting. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Los Angeles, CA,
USA, p. 153.
Kurtova A., Kharlamova A., Protopopov A., Plotnikov V., Potapova, O.,
2013. The Yuka woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius Blum.) brain
extraction and preservation: the methods and results. 73rd SVP Annual
Meeting. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Los Angeles, USA, p. 158A.
Maschenko, E.N., 2002. Individual development, biology and evolution
of the woolly mammoth Mammuthus primigenius (Blumenbach, 1799).
Cranium 19(1), pp. 1- 120.
Maschenko, E.N., Agenbroad L.D., Potapova O., 2012a. The new Yuka
mammoth nd in Yakutia (Eastern Siberia), Russia: the controversies and
facts. 20th Annual Islands in the Plains, Black Hills Archeological and Historical
Symposium. Black Hills Archeological Society, Spearsh, South Dakota, p. 5.
Maschenko, E., Potapova, O., Boeskorov, G., Protopopov, A., Agenbroad, L.,
2012b. Preliminary data on the new partial carcass of the woolly mammoth,
Mammuthus primigenius from Yakutia, Russia. 72nd SVP Annual Meeting.
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Raleigh, NC, USA, p. 137.
Maschenko, E., Boeskorov, G., Agenbroad, L., Potapova,
O., Protopopov, A., Plotnikov, V., Tikhonov, A., Petrova,
E., Pavlov, I., 2014. The studies of the Yuka mammoth
(Mammuthus primigenius) from northern Yakutia, Russia:
the goals and overview of the rst analyses and results.
Abstract Book of the VIth International Conference on
Mammoths and their Relatives. S.A.S.G., Special Volume
102: 120.
... j.quaint.2015.11.084 the sons of the Community leader Mr. Gorokhov, found the Yukagir Mammoth remains consisting of a frozen head with tusks, a left foreleg, hide pieces and postcranials, which were studied by an international, multidisciplinary research team . Among other fascinating discoveries by the Yukagir Community members were the frozen woolly mammoth named "Yuka" (2009) and the extinct wild horse named "Yukagir Horse" (2010), both found on the Oyagossky Yar on the coast of Dmitry Laptev Strait, about 100 km north from the Yukagir Bison site (Boeskorov et al., 2013Maschenko et al., 2014). ...
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The paper presents analyses of the exterior morphology of one of the extinct and dominating species of the Late Pleistocene megafauna of Eurasia, the steppe bison, Bison priscus. The frozen mummy of the Yukagir Bison found in northern Yakutia, Russia represents the most complete specimen of this species in the world. It belongs to a young, 4.1–4.5 year old male, which dates back about 10,500 cal BP. The analyses revealed that the overall size of this specimen was comparable to a 6-year old European and American bison. Its horn spread falls within the upper limits of B. bison athabascae and B. bison bison males, as well as within the average sizes of B. priscus occidentalis from East Siberia and North America. While most of the not fully-grown Yukagir Bison body size fell within the average parameters of both grown modern species, the body and hind foot lengths were closer to the lower limits of the European bison. The color and hair pattern appeared to be close to the Blue Babe mummy (B. priscus) and modern Wood bison (modern morphotype of B. bison athabascae) and European (B. bonasus) bison. The geological age of the Yukagir Bison, along with the data from other specimens indicate that this species, which survived the Pleistocene-Holocene boundary, became rare but was still widely distributed in the northern part of centraleastern Siberia until about 8000 years ago. The juxtaposed data from arctic latitude sediments and the Bison priscus stomach content pollen indicate that it was selective grazer in the environment dominated by unfavorable shrub and forest-tundra vegetation. The scarce Holocene steppe bison remains in Eastern Siberia reflects the dramatic decrease of suitable habitats and pastures during the early Holocene climatic optimum in the high Arctic, which was a major factor of irreversible population fragmentation and decline leading to the species' extinction.
Conference Paper
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The Yuka Woolly Mammoth was found in 2009 on the coast of the Dmitry Laptev Strait (Siberia, northern Yakutia). The radiocarbon dating of the of the 6 to 9 year old mammoth yielded results of 39,440 - 38,850 cal BP (GrA-53289). The carcass was transported to Yakutsk for studies in January 2012, and since then it has been stored below freezing temperature in stable conditions. The first CT scan of the cranium was performed at the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic Academy of Sciences, Yakutsk in May 2012 to access morphology of the unerupted molars. It unexpectedly revealed the preserved brain with well-defined major gross anatomy features, including frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes with gyri, and cerebellum with internal structures, which yielded the first chance to examine Woolly mammoth brain morphology. Brain extraction was performed based on our own experience combined with the generally used treatment for large mammals, including modern elephants. In February 2013 the brain was preserved by the method of flowing fixation developed by Prof. Saveliev (Research Institute of Human Morphology, Russian Academy of Medical Sciences (RIHM RAMS), Moscow, Russia), which included three weeks of continuously on-going preservation of the braincase content only using formalin (performed by I. Pavlov, Museum of History and Culture of People of the North). Skull trepanation was performed on February 25th in Yakutsk. An angle grinder was used for the initial cut and a dental drill for the sphenoid, frontal, and nasal areas. The inner mantle of the neurocranium was opened by chisels. The cutting line went through the lower part of occipital bones, the lateral parts of parietal bones, and across the temporal and cranial parts of frontal bones. After removal of the fornix cranii, the dura mater was dissected along three lines near the cerebral falx and cerebellar temtorium. The brain, which appeared to be dehydrated and very brittle, was lifted off the cranial base and removed manually, together with the dura mater. After the extraction the brain was wrapped with fabric for support and placed into formalin solution overnight before being flown to Moscow. It is currently stored in formalin solution at the RIHM RAMS, Moscow, Russia. The results of the Yuka brain's conservation proved the methods of preservation and extraction were very successful and could be applied to mummified carcasses of paleontological objects found in permafrost.
Conference Paper
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We analyzed a brain from the Yuka mammoth specimen that was discovered in 2009 on the coast of the Dmitry Laptev Strait (Eastern Siberia). Radiocarbon dating of the 6 to 9 year old mammoth yielded results of 39,440 - 38,850 cal BP. CT scanning of Yuka’s brain was initiated by Dr. G. Boeskorov in Yakutsk in 2012. The brain was extracted after preservation through flowing formalin fixation in February 2013 in Yakutsk before it was flown to the Research Institute of Human Morphology, Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Moscow, Russia for further study. The initial gross anatomy examination of the Yuka specimen revealed similar brain morphology to that observed in modern elephants: disproportionally large and laterally expanded temporal lobes, a dorsally visible and relatively large cerebellum, and large olfactory bulbs. The frontal, parietal, and temporal lobes of the cerebrum and the folded hemispheres of cerebellum with the horizontal sulcus, quadrangular lobule, superior and inferior semilunar lobes, and relatively narrow vermis were enveloped by a thick dura mater. The cerebral falx, cerebellar tentorium, and some blood vessels of the dura mater were well preserved. Most of the brainstem was missing, but remnants of the trigeminal, optical, and olfactory nerves were identifiable. The brain appeared to be dehydrated due to the mummification process, with the cerebellum exhibiting less shrinkage in comparison to the cerebrum. Oxidation processes stained the brain to a brown color. The hemispheres of the cerebrum didn’t provide clear morphology due to its state of preservation; the topography of the gyri and sulci remain obscure. The CT scan and IMR performed at the National Research Centre "Kurchatov Institute", Moscow, revealed more morphological details: white and gray matter structures of the cerebrum and cerebellum (including the dentate nucleus and arbor vitae) with declive vermis and flocculus, corpus callosum, and anterior commissure.The forebrain lateral ventricles with the anterior and inferior hornes, foramen Monro, third ventricle with part of the aquaeductus Silvii, and a small opening of the forth ventricle were identified. The lateral and medial nuclei of thalamus, both lobes of the hypophysis, infundibulum, and pineal gland capsule were also visible. The coronal and sagittal scans revealed the olfactory tubercle, rostral part of the pons, and most rostral ascending somatosensory fibers of the brainstem. This study is aimed at comparisons of the Yuka mammoth brain morphology with living Proboscidea.
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The frozen bodies of a young woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius), a wild horse (Equus sp.) and a steppe bison (Bison priscus) were recently found in the northern Yakutia (northeastern Siberia). All specimens have preserved bones, skin and soft tissues. Whereas the woolly mammoth and the Pleistocene horse were represented by partial frozen bodies, the steppe bison body was recovered in an absolutely complete state. All specimens were found frozen in the permafrost, with some of the tissues mummified. The wild horse and steppe bison are of Holocene age, and the mammoth is of Late Pleistocene age.
The new Yuka mammoth find in Yakutia (Eastern Siberia), Russia: the controversies and facts. 20th Annual Islands in the Plains, Black Hills Archeological and Historical Symposium
  • E N Maschenko
  • L D Agenbroad
  • O Potapova
Maschenko, E.N., Agenbroad L.D., Potapova O., 2012a. The new Yuka mammoth find in Yakutia (Eastern Siberia), Russia: the controversies and facts. 20th Annual Islands in the Plains, Black Hills Archeological and Historical Symposium. Black Hills Archeological Society, Spearfish, South Dakota, p. 5.