Baby Mammoth Zapped by Gamma Rays to Kill Pathogens before going on Display

The remains of a 50,000 year old, baby Woolly Mammoth are being exposed to powerful doses of Gamma radiation in order to kill any germs and bacteria before going on display in France.  These ancient remains are a rare example of a baby Mammoth having been found preserved in the permafrost of northern Siberia, only a handful of these frozen carcases have been found in the last one hundred years.

Baby Woolly Mammoth

Keeping with the tradition of naming the remains of baby Mammoths (Lyuba and Dima for example), the corpse has been named Khroma.  It is not clear whether the remains are male or female, the body was discovered by a local hunter in July 2009, as it slowly emerged from melting permafrost on the banks of the river Khroma, some 1,300 miles north of Yakutsk, close to the Arctic Ocean.  This specimen is approximately 6-7 months old and is the eldest of the baby Mammoths found in Siberia over the last one hundred years or so.

Bernard Buigues, a noted expert on these ancient herbivores commented that the body was at least 50,000 years old and that analysis of these remains will help scientists to understand more about the environment in that region close to the Arctic Ocean during the Pleistocene epoch.

As the corpse emerged from the melting ice, the smell of the body attracted scavengers and the trunk and parts of the head had been eaten away before the baby Mammoth was found.

Initially, a team of Russian scientists examined the animal then informed Buigues, who works with authorities in Moscow for his palaeontological Mammoth project, which is behind Khroma’s European trip.

A preliminary study showed that the body of Khroma was harbouring very old but potentially very dangerous germs, most probably anthracis, which can cause anthrax and black lung disease.  The presence of these pathogens has led to the imposition of extreme precautions for the transport of this rare fossil, just in case contamination occurred.  Khroma, still encased in its icy tomb, will be handled initially at a laboratory in Grenoble, the only one in the world specialising in Gamma ray treatment.

This is not the first time the scientists at the Grenoble laboratory have bombarded an ancient object with Gamma rays to kill any harmful pathogens, they treated the mummified remains of King Ramses II in 1977.  In that instance, the Gamma radiation was used to kill a fungus that was affecting the corpse, for Khroma the dose of radiation will be enough to completely wipe out any nasty bugs that have been preserved.

Laurent Cortella, the laboratory’s nuclear physician commented;

“Our baby, inside its box, will undergo three to four days of continuous bombardment of 20,000 grays of gamma rays.”

The gray is the SI unit which measures the amount of adsorbed radiation doses.  Referring to the amount of radiation the baby Mammoth will be subjected to Laurent stated:

“The slightest lethargic little germ from time immemorial hasn’t the least chance of resisting when you realise that one Gamma ray of just four grays kills a human.”

Once Khroma has completed his/her treatment the next stop will by Puy-en-Velay in central France for further study and a general autopsy before going on public display as part of an exhibition on Mammoths and other Ice Age mammals.

A Mammoth Family on the move in the Snowbound Wastes

Woolly Mammoths including a baby Woolly Mammoth.

A trio of Woolly Mammoths including a baby Woolly Mammoth.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur/Schleich

To view a model of a baby Woolly Mammoth and dinosaur toys: CollectA Age of Dinosaurs Prehistoric Life Models.

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