An elephant never forgetting

Within a clan of elephants all members are known to one another and, since a clan will usually have at least 100 adult members, and may have twice that, this means an adult can recognise and have meaningful social relations with that many other individuals. A figure of between 100 and 200 acquaintances is similar to the number of people with whom a human being can maintain a meaningful social relationship—a value known as Dunbar’s number. To deal with so many peers, and remembering details of such large ranges may require big hippocampuses. These structures, one in each cerebral hemisphere, are involved in the formation of long-term memories. Compared with the size of its brain, an elephant’s hippocampuses are about 40% larger than those of a human being, suggesting that the old proverb about an elephant never forgetting may have a grain of truth in it. The Economists June 2017

‘De-extinctify’ the woolly mammoth

Scientists are on the brink of resurrecting the ancient beast, Vanished 4.000 years ago. Most of the mammoth’s genome sequence has been decoded, which means that a genetic blueprint for making a mammoth is available. Whit this information, and a lot of genetic engineering, is possible to change parts of the elephant genome in order to make a mammoth. It’s a matter of cutting out and replacing specific genes. So, resurrected mammoths no longer seem the stuff of fantasy. The Guardian. Feb 2017.

Chance discovery of a mammoth

Michigan mammoth

A farmer from  Michigan discovered a mammoth in his fields. The discovery  can help date the arrival of humans in North America. The team’s working hypothesis is that ancient humans placed the mammoth remains in a pond for storage. The researchers also recovered a small stone flake that may have been used as a cutting tool next to one of the tusks. And the neck vertebrae were not scattered randomly, as is normally the case following a natural death, but were arrayed in their correct anatomical sequence, as if someone had “chopped a big chunk out of the body and placed it in the pond for storage,”



A spear-thrower, used to hunt mammoths, consists of a shaft with a spur at the end that supports and propels the butt of the dart, that is thrown by the action of the upper arm and wrist.
The throwing arm acts as a lever, and the spear-thrower increases the length of the lever, that in turn allows that the thrower increases the acceleration of the dart.
Innovation in spear-throwers design included improvements such as elements to fit the fingers, the use of flexible shafts and thinner darts for added power and range. An important improvement was the introduction of a small weight strapped to its midsection. The stone weight adds mass to the shaft of the device resulting in a more forceful and accurate launch of the dart.

A stubborn mammoth called Manny

ice ageIce Age (2002) is a prehistoric tale of three unlikely friends. The adventure begins when Manny, a stubborn mammoth, begrudgingly teams up with Sid, a hapless sloth, to return an abandoned human baby to his family. To make it in time they must trust the tracking skills of Diego, a surly saber-toothed tiger with not clear motives.
The idea, originally planned as a classically animated dramatic family film, finally it was decided to take a risk and make a fully 3D animated comedy. The risk paid off. Ice Age grossed $46.3 million in its opening weekend, breaking the record for a March opening.

Mammoth of Montastruc


Spear thrower carved as a mammoth. Late Magdalenian, about 12,500 years old. From the rockshelter of Montastruc, Tarn-et-Garonne, France.  Carved from a reindeer antler, spear throwers came into use about 18,000 years ago in western Europe. They consist of a straight handle with a hook at one end. The bottom of the spear fits against the hook and the spear shaft and spear thrower handle are held together with the hook end by the shoulder. Launching the spear in this way sends it with more force and speed and across a longer distance than if it was simply thrown by hand. From British Museum

A future siberian mammoth?

Asian elephantAccording to Harvard geneticist George Church, genetic engineering may undercut human diseases, but also could help restore extinct species. Mammoth DNA in recovered cells frozen for thousands of years is likely too fragmented to clone an animal, according to Harvard geneticist George Church. So he’s working instead to engineer one genetically from a close relative, the Asian elephant.  Genetic studies have shown that the Asian elephant is more closely related to the extinct mammoth than to its closest living relative, the African elephant. That provides scientists with the basic stock to build a mammoth, said Church, the Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School. From HARVARDgazette