When the researchers trepanned the animal's skull to get to the brain, which means that they made a cut in the skull, using tools that included an angle grinder, a dental drill and chisels, they saw that there were still remains of soft tissue on its surface, according to the study. [How to Bring Back the Woolly Mammoth (Infographic)]
The mammoth specimen also had a well-preserved dura mater - Latin for "tough mother" - a dense membrane that protects the brain and spinal cord, as well as visible vessels and sinuses, the researchers wrote. The brain was stained brown due to oxidation, and it had shrunk, as its volume was 45 percent smaller than the volume of the cranial cavity, or the space inside the skull that houses the brain.
The brain may have thawed and frozen again several times, as the carcass has been stored in different conditions, the researchers wrote in the study. They found that the brain's structure was similar to that in modern-day elephants, which are related to mammoths, as both species belong to the same family of Elephantidae.
Based on their experience with Yuka, the researchers even came up with a set of tips that suggest the best strategies on how to proceed with preserving mammoth brains in the future.
"If there is an indication that the specimen discovered in permafrost has a preserved brain, it should be transported in a frozen condition," while it is inside the cranium, to avoid mechanical damage and deformations, they wrote in the study, also recommending that repeated thawing and freezing should be avoided at all costs.
This may be the first intact mammoth brain, but not the first of these ice-age animals to be unearthed. Two female baby woolly mammoths, dubbed Lyuba and Khroma, were uncovered from the Siberian permafrost in 2007 and 2009, respectively. The CT scans of these mammoths, whose stomach contents were found preserved, revealed skeletal differences between the two that may be due to some evolutionary change that occurred in the mammoth lineage - Khroma's remains dated to an earlier time than the 42,000-year-old Lyuba. Even so, their brains were not well preserved.
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Skin and Bones: Inside Baby Mammoths Image Gallery: Stunning Mammoth Unearthed Image Gallery: 25 Amazing Ancient Beasts Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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