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Woolly mammoth with 'strawberry-blonde hair' discovered in Siberia

April 4, 2012 - London

The body of an "exquisitely preserved" young woolly mammoth, which had "strawberry-blonde" hair, has been found in a frozen cliff in Siberia.

The well-preserved mammal, which has been named Yuka, is thought to have been between three and four years old when it died and still has its foot pads and ginger hair in tact.

Experts said it might have lain unnoticed in its icy tomb for more than 10,000 years, with its injuries being perfectly frozen in time, the Telegraph reported.

Kevin Campbell, associate professor of environmental and evolutionary physiology at the University of Manitoba, told the BBC one of the most striking things about Yuka is its strawberry-blonde hair.

Mammoths have previously been thought to have darker fur, with the possibility of lighter-coloured coats only being proposed in 2006 when scientists analysed genes from a bone.

The finding now provides direct evidence that this was the case and will help experts determine how eye and hair colour were spread among mammoth populations.

"These are remarkably rare finds and have huge significance," said Professor Campbell.

Other experts have highlighted the importance of serious injuries to the mammoth, which indicate ancient humans may have "stolen" the carcass from another predator.

They showed young Yuka had a freshly broken leg and serious flesh wounds, as well as older scratches, which may show it, survived an earlier attack.

But, instead of only showing damage consistent with a lion attacks, the body also has cut marks and openings which appear more likely to have come from human beings.

Daniel Fisher, professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Michigan, said: "Already there is dramatic evidence of a life-and-death struggle between Yuka and some top predator, probably a lion.

"Even more interesting, there are hints that humans may have taken over the kill at an early stage," he stated.

Tusk hunters in Siberia found the mammoth and handed it to the Mammuthus organisation.

It is not the first mammoth body to be found, but it has unusually well-preserved soft tissue with muscle, skin and internal organs that are rarely found on carcasses.


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