The world's first public exhibition of woolly mammoth blood protein has been unveiled at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden, Man.

A small vial of deep red mammoth hemoglobin, along with a portion of mammoth tusk recovered from Grunthal, Man., are the latest additions to the CFDC and its first ice age exhibit, according to the museum.


A small vial of mammoth hemoglobin sits on the tusks of a toy woolly mammoth as part of a display at the Canadian Fossil Discovery centre in Morden, Man., on Monday. (Ryan Hicks/CBC)

The exhibit will give people an unprecedented opportunity to get up close and personal with an ancient creature that became extinct 10,000 years ago, the museum said in a release Monday.

The exhibit was made possible thanks to a donation of the hemoglobin from Winnipeg's Kevin Campbell, a University of Manitoba professor of environmental and evolutionary physiology and vice-president of the board for the CFDC.

Campbell, whose research was instrumental in the resurrection of the hemoglobin, said recent advances in biotechnology enabled him to not only recreate functional genes from extinct animals, but also to faithfully assemble and study the proteins the genes once encoded.

By doing so, they were able to determine some remarkable "living" characteristics of woolly mammoths.

"For instance, resurrecting this red blood cell protein hemoglobin from a woolly mammoth has shown that the normally temperature sensitive protein evolved novel adaptations that, unlike living [tropical] elephants, enabled it to do its job of delivering oxygen to body tissues in the cold conditions these beasts faced," Campbell said.


A woolly mammoth at the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria. The last time a human being got close to mammoth blood was more than 10,000 years ago when they were being hunted by paleolithic peoples. (Tracy O.)

"Prior to these new techniques, we had no way to deduce, let alone test for, these kinds of attributes from fossilized remains. Being able to recreate and study authentic genetic material from extinct species is a whole new frontier in paleo-biology and research into ancient life."

"If you were to go back in time with a syringe, remove mammoth blood and separate out the hemoglobin, this is exactly what you would have," said CFDC acting executive director Peter Cantelon.

"The last time a human being has been this close to mammoth blood was more than 10,000 years ago when they were being hunted by paleolithic peoples."

Morden is about 105 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.