Resurrected: woolly mammoth blood protein
Floating in a test tube in a lab in Winnipeg, Canada, is a tiny speck of woolly mammoth – a blood protein which may explain how the animals coped with the cold of an ice age.
It is one of the first proteins from a long-dead organism to be resurrected in a living cell. Other extinct animals, including Neanderthals, are sure to follow suit. Such techniques will make it possible to explore exactly how extinct animals lived, rather than making educated guesses based on reconstructed gene sequences.
Woolly mammoths died out about 3500 years ago. They shared an African ancestor with elephants around 7 million years ago, before moving north between 1 and 2 million years ago.
To cope with the cold, they developed smaller ears and fur coats. Kevin Campbell of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, was curious to see if their proteins had changed too. "The only way was to resurrect them," he says.