Meet Lyuba, A 42,000-Year-Old Baby Woolly Mammoth

While the great woolly mammoths are no longer with us, they roamed the earth for thousands of years. The giant creatures were similar in size and shape to the elephant but covered in fur that helped them survive cold climates.

It’s believed that woolly mammoths began to die out 10,000 years ago, going completely extinct 4,000 years ago, according to LiveScience.v Despite being gone for thousands of years, paleontologists are still discovering remains of the species and learning more about their life on earth.

Back in 2007, an extremely well-preserved woolly mammoth was discovered in Siberia, the most well-preserved specimen of that time. The mammoth, named Lyuba, is thought to have lived a short life alongside her mother, before her untimely death at just 30-35 days old.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

According to History of Information, a reindeer herder named Yuri Khudi discovered the specimen in the Arctic Yamal Peninsula of Siberia, Russia. Her nearly perfect body had broken free from the permafrost along the Yuribey River and became visible to Khudi.

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Earth Touch News reported that Khudi knew better than to mess with the ancient woolly mammoth, so he alerted the appropriate authorities about her whereabouts. Unfortunately, by the time the authorities arrived to retrieve the body, someone had taken it.

Photo: flickr/Ruth Hartnup

Eventually, the body was discovered in a nearby town where Khudi’s cousin had tried to sell it to a shop owner. Along the route to the town, it had been attacked by a group of dogs which resulted in unfortunate damage to the specimen’s right ear and tail. Despite this, they were able to reclaim the body from their thieves and transport it to safety for further research. Because of Khudi’s assistance in the matter, he was allowed to name the specimen. He chose the name Lyuba, after his wife.

After studying Lyuba, it was determined through clay found in her trunk that she was probably suffocated while crossing the river or getting water. That same clay that most likely caused her death also coated her body and resulted in her near-perfect preservation.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

According to Earth Touch News, Lyuba was so well preserved that not only did she have her skin, trunk, and bones but also her eyes, eyelashes, and organs! They were even able to identify her last meal, milk from her mother and twice- digested plant matter, in her stomach.

Lyuba has traveled the world to be featured in different exhibits, though her permanent home is at the Shemanovsky Museum. Occasionally, the museum lends her out for exhibitions—she’s traveled to Australia and the United Kingdom. Weighing just 110 pounds and measuring a little under three feet tall, Lyuba is the size of a large dog. Her slender trunk was designed to help her drink water from snow and a layer of fat on her head would have kept her warm from the cold. Though her life met an unfortunate end, now she is able to help others learn more about these majestic creatures.

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