A man stands with a woolly mammoth sculpture in Siberia (Image: Getty)
Is it possible to clone an extinct animal and bring it back to life? And even if it is - should we do it?
Big questions - and they're going to be asked a lot if this discovery is real.
Earlier this month, an expedition led by Russian scientists discovered what is believed to be the well-preserved carcass of a female woolly mammoth on a remote island in the Arctic Ocean in northern Russia.
It was in such a well-preserved state, they say, that it still had liquid blood inside it.
"When we broke the ice beneath her stomach, the blood flowed out from there, it was very dark," Professor Grigoryev, a scientist at the Yakutsk-based Northeastern Federal University, told AFP.
"This is the most astonishing case in my entire life," he continued. "How was it possible for it to remain in liquid form? And the muscle tissue is also red, the colour of fresh meat."
A researcher holds a test tube of what the science team says is well-preserved mammoth blood (Photo: Northeastern Federal University)
The animal is between 10,000 and 15,000 years old, and it died around age 60, the team says. This the first time such an old female specimen has been found.
Apparently the back and the head of the mammoth were eaten by predators at some point, but the forelegs and stomach are intact.
Professor Grigoryev addressed the cloning question, and said the discovery may make the possibility of creating a new mammoth more likely.
"This find gives us a really good chance of finding live cells which can help us implement this project to clone a mammoth," he said. "Previous mammoths have not had such well-preserved tissues."
Over the next few months, specialists from the U.S., South Korea and Russia will study the remains. They're being held at an undisclosed northern location right now to keep them safe from theft.
Another big mammoth discovery happened last year, when a teenager from a nomadic family found a very well-preserved woolly mammoth in Russia's north.
Apparently global warming may be responsible for these new discoveries. As ground in northern Russia that was permanently frozen thaws, new specimens are emerging from the ice.
As for the challenges of resurrecting a species that has been extinct for at least 3,000 years, it may not be out of the realm of possibility.
In 2003, scientists cloned a Pyrenean ibex, another extinct species, in the lab. The clone only survived for seven minutes, but LiveScience says the experiment "gave scientists hope that 'de-extinction,' once a pipedream, could become a reality."
No one's expecting a real-life version of 'Jurassic Park' - and given that the dinosaurs in that story never seem to play all that nice with humans, maybe that's for the best.
But scientists have already tried to clone woolly mammoths by using the DNA-storing nucleus of a mammoth cell and an Asian elephant egg. They haven't succeeded so far.
Experts have raised questions about the value of cloning extinct species. Duke University's Stuart Pimm wrote in National Geographic that such efforts would be a "colossal waste" if there's no safe habitat where a resurrected species could live.
But others believe resurrecting species could have a positive effect, generating attention and support for efforts to conserve species that are alive today.
"Some people feel that watching scientists bring back the great auk and putting it back on a breeding colony would be very inspiring," science journalist Carl Zimmer told LiveScience. The auk, a large, flightless bird, became extinct in the mid-19th century.
Via The Herald Sun