Bachelor Party Finds Massive Mastodon Skull
New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science/Facebook
The skull, sealed in a cast and loaded up for its trip to its new home in Albuquerque at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science.
New technologies could make it possible to bring extinct species back to life, concludes a paper published on April 4 in the journal Science. These advances include back-breeding (assembling or reassembling an extinct species' genes), cloning and genetic engineering.
A leading candidate for de-extinction is the woolly mammoth. Russian scientist Semyon Grigoriev, of the Sakha Republic's mammoth museum, plans to replace the nuclei of an elephant egg with nuclei extracted from woolly mammoth bone marrow. The elephant would theoretically become a surrogate mother to a baby mammoth.
Tasmanian tigers died out in 1936, in part because they had little genetic diversity which translates to "bad news for a species," said Katherine Belov, professor of comparative genomics at the University of Sydney. "Species are less able to adapt to change." Even if Tasmanian tigers -- or other animals -- are resurrected, it will take some time to build up diversity again.
Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Wikimedia Commons
Experts believe billions of these birds populated the Americas when Europeans arrived. Loss of habitat and commercial exploitation of the birds for their meat are thought to have killed them all off.
Efforts are now underway to revive the species by extracting DNA fragments from preserved specimens, and later, using band-tailed pigeons as surrogate parents.
Joseph Wolf, Wikimedia Commons
The Pyrenean ibex, a horned mammal once common in Europe, was one of the first subspecies targeted for de-extinction. Scientists began the attempts in late 1990s, when the last female Pyrenean ibex was still alive. Even if researchers could successfully clone that individual, there would be no males for her to breed with. Instead, genetic engineering might be required.
Cicero Moraes, Wikimedia Commons
Since saber-toothed cat bodies are sometimes found frozen, it might be possible to extract preserved DNA and clone the animal. About 5 years ago, scientists did just that with a mouse that was dead and frozen for 16 years. Woolly mammoth remains are also sometimes found in a well-preserved, frozen state.
Oxford Museum of Natural History, Wikimedia Commons
The dodo, a flightless bird, proved to be a tasty meal for humans and other predators. In 2007, scientists found a remarkably well-preserved dodo in a cave. Dodo DNA could be used to resurrect this avian species.
University of Texas at Austin, Wikimedia Commons
Ground sloths, relatively slow, lumbering animals, were easy targets for prehistoric big-game hunters. Scientists have found remains that still bear soft tissue. As with woolly mammoths, there's a chance extracted DNA could be used to back-breed or clone the large sloths.
Charles Knight, Wikimedia Commons
The Irish elk has been extinct for 11,000 years. Like the woolly mammoth, it inhabited colder regions. As a result, bodies are sometimes found frozen and in relatively good condition, making them candidates for DNA extraction.
UNiesert, Wikimedia Commons
Earlier this year, Harvard geneticist George Church -- with tongue in cheek -- said that he was seeing an "adventurous female human" to be a surrogate mother to a cloned Neanderthal. While Church was really just theorizing about what it would take to bring a Neanderthal back to life, the possibility could be a reality, should any scientist undertake such a controversial project.
Paleontologist Jack Horner is leading a project to create a dinosaur out of a chicken -- a "dinochicken." He told Discovery News that birds "are dinosaurs, so technically we're making a dinosaur out of a dinosaur." He and his colleagues have been genetically engineering chickens to reactivate ancestral traits, such as long tails, which are more associated with non-avian dinosaurs.
Some guys have trouble remembering just what happened during their bachelor party, but a group of men on a recent stag send-off in New Mexico aren’t likely to forget their celebration very soon — since they stumbled upon a perfectly preserved three-million-year-old mastodon skull.
The party was on a hike in Elephant Butte Lake State Park near Albuquerque when they saw a bone jutting one to two inches from the sand, according to a recent report in the Telegraph. They started digging and uncovered the enormous skull. Their first thought was it could be the remains of a woolly mammoth so they snapped photos and sent them to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.
Scientists there made the identification — it wasn’t a woolly mammoth, but, in fact, a much more exciting find. The skull belonged to a stegomastodon -- a prehistoric ancestor of the woolly mammoth — as well as today’s elephants. The massive animal stood about 9 feet tall, weighed six tons and walked the Earth during the Ice Age, according to Gary Morgan, a paleontologist at the museum who analyzed the fossil. He estimates the animal was about 50 years old when it died on a sandbar of the ancient Rio Grande River.
The family of mastodons migrated to North America around 15 million years ago and died out around 10,000 years ago.
“This is far and away the best one we’ve ever found,” said Morgan about the bachelor party’s discovery.
Scientists, following up on the party’s tip, went to the site and sealed the skull, which weighed more than 1,000 pounds, in a cast. It was transported to the museum, where it will eventually be placed on display.
Antonia Gradillas, 33, was among the men who made the original discovery. He told the Telegraph, "This is the coolest thing ever. Some people with PhDs in this field might not even have this kind of opportunity. We were so lucky."
-- via the Telegraph.