Saturday, February 11, 2012

Mammoth maybe

Today, something a little more lighthearted. And about woolly mammoths, which I love! In addition to owning a mammoth tooth and some mammoth hair, I have blogged about (and linked to stories about) them many times:
  • When the frozen baby mammoth named "Lubya" was discovered and again when she was prepped for an international museum tour
  • When one team of researchers found a fungus in mammoth poop that helped explain why they died out, another team confirmed that mammoths were not hunted to extinction, and a 3rd found through soil analysis that woolly mammoths existed for thousands of years longer than previously thought
  • When I learned that an ancient Venus sculpture was made from woolly mammoth tusk, a 13,000-year-old bone etching of a walking mammoth was found to be authentic, and modern Russian scrimshaw carvers are using woolly mammoth tusks as a source of ethical ivory
  • When some scientists analyzed a blood protein of woolly mammoths to show that it allowed them to survive in freezing temperatures, and others considered the implications of reproducing woolly mammoths by cloning
  • And when there were noteworthy finds of mammoth fossils in hurricane damage, while digging in the yard, on the golf course, and - my particular favorite - on the beach (which also includes the delightful discovery of a rocky outcropping where mammoths scratched their backs)
I had even hatched a plan (since abandoned) to become a woolly mammoth for Halloween! So I would dearly love for this newly uploaded video of mammoth crossing a Siberian stream to be authentic. But, alas, the consensus is that it is a hoax. Cryptozoologists and others base this on the movement of the river wake against the current, the brief length and poor quality of the clip, and - perhaps most telling - the reputations of the source (described as today's P.T. Barnum) and the outlet. Although mammoths were alive as recently as 4,000 years ago, the animal in the video is thought to be a brown bear with a salmon in its mouth, which would look like this from another angle. Steven Novella writes on NeoroLogica, "There is nothing in the video to make one suspect that it is a woolly mammoth, or that can rule out a bear eating a fish. Between the 2 possibilities, Occam’s razor strongly favors the bear – because then we don’t have to introduce the new element of a surviving population of mammoths."

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