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Image: Mammoth carcass
Sergei Gorbunov  /  Int'l Mammoth Committee in Russia via AP
This carcass of a 16-year-old mammoth was uncovered during an excavation on the North Siberian Taimyr peninsula in late Septembere. Russian scientists say it's one of the best-preserved bodies of a grown mammoth yet found.
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updated 10/5/2012 1:34:44 PM ET 2012-10-05T17:34:44

A teenage mammoth that once roamed the Siberian tundra in search of fodder and females might have been killed by an Ice Age man on a summer day tens of thousands of years ago, a Russian scientist said Friday.

Professor Alexei Tikhonov of the Zoology Institute in St. Petersburg announced the discovery of the mammoth, which was excavated from the Siberian permafrost in late September near the Sopochnaya Karga cape, 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) northeast of Moscow.

The 16-year-old mammoth has been named Jenya, after the 11-year-old Russian boy who found the animal's limbs sticking out of the frozen mud. The mammoth was 2 meters (6 feet 6 inches) tall and weighed 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds).

"He was pretty small for his age," Tikhonov told The Associated Press.

What killed Jenya was not his size but a missing left tusk that made him unfit for fights with other mammoths or human hunters who were settling the Siberian marshes and swamps 20,000 to 30,000 years ago, Tikhonov said.

The splits on Jenya's remaining tusk show a "possible human touch," he added.

The examination of Jenya's body has already proved that the massive humps on mammoths seen on Ice Age cave paintings in Spain and France were not extended bones but huge chunks of fat that helped them regulate their body temperatures and survive the long, cold winters, Tikhonov said.

Jenya's hump was relatively big, which means that he died during a short Arctic summer, he said.

Up to 4 meters (13 feet) in height and 10 tons in weight, mammoths migrated across huge areas between Great Britain and North America and were driven to extinction by humans and the changing climate.

Wooly mammoths are thought to have died out around 10,000 years ago, although scientists think small groups of them lived longer in Alaska and on Russia's Wrangel Island off the Siberian coast.

Their bodies have mostly been found in the Siberian permafrost. Siberian cultural myths paint them as primordial creatures who moved underground and helped to create the Earth.

Most of the well-preserved mammoths are calves. Jenya's carcass is the best-preserved one since the 1901 discovery of a giant mammoth near the Beryozovka river in Russia's northeastern Yakutia region, Tikhonov said.

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Unfortunately, its DNA has been damaged by low temperatures and is "hardly" suitable for possible cloning, he said.

However, an earlier mammoth discovery might be able to help re-create the Ice Age elephant.

Russia's North-Eastern Federal University said in early September that an international team of researchers had discovered mammoth hair, soft tissues and bone marrow 328 feet (100 meters) underground during a summer expedition in Yakutia.

Scientists already have deciphered much of the genetic code of the woolly mammoth from balls of mammoth hair found frozen in the Siberian permafrost. Some believe it's possible to re-create the prehistoric animal if they find living cells in the permafrost.

Those who succeed in re-creating an extinct animal could claim a "Jurassic Park prize," a concept being developed by the X Prize Foundation that awarded a 2004 prize for the first private spacecraft.

More about mammoths:

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Can scientists clone the woolly mammoth?

  1. Closed captioning of: Can scientists clone the woolly mammoth?

    >>> back now at 7:49 with a story where reality meets hollywood could long extinct creatures soon be walking the earth? nbc's j

    >> i'm doing this story on woolly mammoths and it brought us back to the source really, the land where woolly mammoths once lived, once died, and whose bones are literally everywhere. deep within siberia, so remote you need a hovercraft to get there, we traveled back in time to a frozen place called windy cliffs where woolly mammoths roamed tens of thousands of years ago. so many bones that russian scientists and mammoth expert sergei zimov had a good collection within minutes.

    >> leg.

    >> that's heavy.

    >> yes.

    >> reporter: but the real treasure lies in the permafrost below where scientists have found the most preserved mammoth remains in recent years, whose dna offers the best hope for cloning the species. hendrick poinar in ontario is excited and says he has almost cracked the entire genetic code.

    >> within the next year we should have the complete genome.

    >> reporter: he's come a long way since appearing on the "today" show in 1993 with his reality check about steven spielberg 's new film "jurrasaic park."

    >> cloning a dinosaur is not a feasible project.

    >> reporter: okay. maybe not dinosaurs but cloning extinct species like the mammoth he now says is do-able.

    >> obviously spielberg was thinking further ahead than we were.

    >> reporter: meanwhile this professor and his japanese team are trying to clone a mammoth by injecting mammoth dna into an elephant egg creating a mammoth embryo. despite initial setbacks he's optimistic. real life woolly mammoths actually walking the earth for the first time in 10,000 years, so what do you do with them? where do you raise a mammoth in today's warmer world which many scientists believe actually killed off its ice-age ancestors? the answer could lie here in the far reaches of northeastern siberia. welcome to 60 square miles of grass land , reindeer, wild horses , and bison, a whole ice age ecosystem, part hobby and part science experiment where zimov has recreated a slice of the past. what's missing of course are the packs of huge woolly mammoths . now the stuff of fantasy but if cloned mammoths do become fact --

    >> i know mammoths will survive here in this place.

    >> reporter: there is a good chance this man made park could feel like home. but don't hold your breath. we could well see a baby mammoth in five to ten years according to some scientists we spoke to but a herd of mammoths roaming around their ancient grasslands is something that our grandchildren might see but thanks to those amazing computer generated images from discovery channel at least we can dream. that's pretty cool.

    >> great story, jim. thank you so much.

    >> you just blew day three of where in the world

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