A man takes a detailed look at Lyuba

A man takes a detailed look at Lyuba

Rare woolly mammoth on display at the Royal B.C. Museum

The story of one of the most well preserved specimens in existence is a sad but remarkable tale, according to scientists.

The story of one of the most well preserved specimens in existence is a sad but remarkable tale, according to scientists.

Roughly 40,000 years ago, a baby woolly mammoth was separated from her mother in the Yamal Peninsula in Russia. Just a month old, the 110-pound female baby got trapped in mud along the banks of a river. As she struggled to free herself, the baby’s trunk quickly filled with silt and her body was covered by sediment. She eventually died of suffocation.

Thousands of years later in 2007, she was found by a Siberian reindeer herder and two of his sons, almost perfectly preserved in the frozen soil of the Arctic. The herder then travelled 1,000 kilometres to the nearest town to report his find to the local museum.

The baby woolly mammoth was named Lyuba (pronounced LOO-bah) after the herder’s wife and is the best preserved specimen in existence.

“It was winter and her carcass was frozen so that’s why baby Lyuba is so unique because she is the most intact specimen,” said Dr. Tatyana Koptseva, director with the Yamal-Nenets Regional Museum Exhibition Complex in Russia, through a translator. “She is one of only six finds in the world that are in such exceptional condition.”

Shortly after Lyuba was found, an international team of Russian, French, Japanese and American scientists performed DNA analysis, an autopsy and used X-ray technologies to explore her anatomy and physiology.

Not only was her body well preserved, so were her internal organs, which revealed she was relatively healthy when she died. In her intestines, scientists found milk from her mother, pollen from grasses and other plants (suggesting Lyuba lived in a nearly tree-less environment) algae from lake water, and mammoth dung which elephants fed to the calves to introduce bacteria that will help digest plants.

Scientists found that Lyuba’s body had been preserved by lactic-acid-producing bacteria that colonized her body after death. The microbial process “pickled” her soft tissue and worked with freezing to preserve her carcass.

Since her discovery, Lyuba (whose home is the Yamal-Nenets Regional Museum Exhibition Complex in Russia), has travelled to various museums around the world in the United States, London and Hong Kong.

Now, Victorians will have the opportunity to see Lyuba at the Royal B.C. Museum as part of the new exhibition Mammoths: Giants of the Ice Age beginning June 3.

“This is one of the most exciting moments of my professional career,” said Jack Lohman, CEO of the museum.

“You can see her little eyes, her hair and her beautiful trunk. When this continent was connected to Siberia by the Bering Land Bridge, mammoths just like Lyuba would have been found all over British Columbia, including right here in Victoria.”

The interactive exhibition also features immersive multimedia, real mammoth tusks and mastodon teeth, as well as life-sized models of mastodons, short-faced bears and giant sloths that roamed parts of British Columbia from 2.6 million to 10,000 years ago.

Dr. Richard Hebda, curator of botany and earth history with the museum, said the exhibition shines a spotlight on the Ice Age in British Columbia, educating people about where ice was  and the types of creatures that roamed Vancouver Island centuries ago.

“Much of the landscape and land forms we see around here were shaped by the Ice Age, by glaciers flowing through the fiords, over the tops of mountains, stuff melting and leaving big gravel deposits. At the same time as that was going on, when there wasn’t as much ice, there were all sorts of Ice Age creatures,” Hebda said, adding his personal favourite is the re-creation of a short-faced bear.

“We have a fantastic record of the life of the Ice Age here on southern Vancouver Island . . . We’re going to tell a story that’s just as spectacular as the story in Europe.”

Mammoths: Giants of the Ice Age runs until Dec. 31. For more information visit royalbcmuseum.bc.ca.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A member of the Belmont Secondary School in Langford has tested positive for COVID-19, the Sooke School District announced Thursday afternoon. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Positive COVID-19 case identified at Belmont Secondary School in Langford

Other school members could’ve been exposed on April 20

Starting in June, Government Street will be closed to most vehicles between Humboldt and View streets. A section of Government Street was transformed into a pedestrian-priority walkway in the wake of COVID-19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria plans 10-hour closures of Government Street come June

City’s business relief plan extended, Government St. from Humboldt to View closed noon to 10 p.m.

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

While Buccaneer Days public events are cancelled again, such as the annual parade, a home and business decorating contest will allow the spirit of the event to live on. (Facebook)
Esquimalt Buccaneer Days COVID-19 cannon fodder again

Annual celebration cancelled a second time, decorating contest full steam ahead

Police are looking for this suspect after a man was stabbed on Pandora Avenue Tuesday night. (Photo courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Police seek suspect in Victoria stabbing

The stabbing took place in the 900-block of Pandora Avenue, just before 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Have rising prices caused you to give up hope of buying a home?

Do you have a spare 50 grand or so kicking around (have… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 20

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

The conservation service confirmed they do not relocate cougars from settled areas but that euthanasia is not necessarily the fate for an animal in the Fanny Bay area. The hope is that the animal will move on to wild areas. (File photo)
Woman hopes cat-stalking Fanny Bay cougar can avoid euthanization

Conservation officers do not relocate the animals from Vancouver Island

Tofino residents expressed frustration over a recent post by Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett that falsely claimed all residents have been vaccinated. (Westerly file photo)
Resort owner apologizes for suggesting Tofino is safe to travel to

Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett apologizes to community and visitors

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Most Read