Woolly Mammoth: Secrets from the Ice

Genre: Documentary

Imagine an elephant, but with tusks

at least twice the size

of those borne by an elephant

living today.

Imagine an elephant, but covered

in a thick shaggy coat of hair,

some of those hairs

over a metre in length.

Imagine an elephant which lived

not in the warmth of the tropics,

but in the ice

and snow of the north.

The woolly mammoth.

These majestic titans ruled Europe

and Asia

long before our own ancestors

fell under their spell.

Extinct for thousands of years,

they are iconic, yet mysterious.

Climate change means that the frozen

north is melting faster than ever before.

Prehistoric carcasses are emerging

and, from them,

we can unlock the secrets

of these long-lost beasts.

Using the latest technology,

we can now answer questions about the

mammoth which have long-puzzled scientists.

This is, in essence,

virtual time travel.

That's starting to sound

a little bit like Jurassic Park!

We're able to trace their evolution,

revealing their adaptations

to one of the harshest places

on the planet.

This is amazing!

And with every new find,

we take a step closer

to answering the biggest question

of all -

why did these magnificent animals

suddenly go extinct?

I want to show you. Oh, fantastic. That's

brilliant. I want to share with you.


Here, the temperature hovers

around minus 40 for months on end.

Few animals can survive here.

A hundred thousand years ago,

it was a different story.


This giant swathe of Eurasia was

home to vast herds of woolly mammoths.

Perfectly adapted

to the extremes of the Arctic,

a tiny population survived

on a remote island

until about 4,000 years ago.

But, on mainland Siberia,

they mysteriously died

out at the end of the last Ice Age.

But we're left with a treasure trove

of their remains,

locked in Siberia's layer

of frozen ground...

.. the permafrost.

As global warming

raises the earth's temperature,

melting the permafrost

faster than ever,

the secrets of the mammoth

are finally emerging.

After centuries of collecting

their remains,

we can paint a detailed picture

of these long-lost beasts

far better than we can

for any other extinct species.

We know that they lived

for up to 60 years

and were perfectly built

for life in the freezer.

But many of their adaptations

have remained secret, until now.

And there's one big question,

which remains unanswered.

What killed them off?

This is one of the most famous

mammoth-finds of recent years.

She's called Lyuba,

and she's a little baby mammoth,

probably just a month old.

She was found in 2007

and she is amazingly well preserved,

so that we have her skin,

her soft tissues

and we even have

the contents of her gut.

Lyuba has been radio carbon dated

to 37,000 years old.

Found in the far northwest

of Siberia,

she's considered to be the

best-preserved mammoth ever discovered.

It's wonderful to get so close

to this little baby mammoth

and see how beautifully preserved she

is. You can see the texture of the skin.

You can see individual

hair follicles there,

and there's even some fur preserved,

some little patches of it.

And then on the surface of the skin as

well, there are these peculiar blue discs,

which are part of a fungal infestation

that happened after she died,

part of the burial environment

that she was in.

And she's lost her tail,

that's about the only bit of her

that isn't there.

It's thought that Lyuba

died in a bog,

where she was first pickled by natural

chemicals, and then quickly frozen.

Large specimens,

like fully-grown mammoths,

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "Woolly Mammoth: Secrets from the Ice" Scripts.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2022. Web. 28 Sep. 2022. <https://www.scripts.com/script/woolly_mammoth:_secrets_from_the_ice_23657>.

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