A miner recently uncovered the most complete mummified woolly mammoth ever found in North America. The baby mammoth, discovered “in the Klondike gold fields within Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin Traditional Territory” according to a release, is likely more than 30,000 years old. But this mummified baby mammoth still includes preserved skin, hair, toenails, and internal organs. Even its trunk is fully intact, down to the prehensile tip. The remarkably well-preserved baby mammoth is sparking excitement and collaborations between the mining industry, scientists, and First Nations.
The baby mammoth is likely female. Her name is Nun go cha, which means “big baby animal” in the Hän language. Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Elders, whose ancestors co-existed in the region with mammoths until the animal’s extinction about 4,000 years ago, named her.
The mining company alerted scientists to the find quickly, in news we first saw on Gizmodo. And thanks to decades of trust-building partnerships with paleontologists and the Yukon government. A post from the mining company shares their excitement about Nun go cha and other historically and scientifically significant finds that have been discovered over the years.
The paleontologist the mining company notified also contacted the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in government and everyone will work together going forward. The aforementioned joint press release from the two governments includes both the importance of the discovery, which allows us a glimpse into the ice age, and a discussion of the amazing coordination between groups.
The most incredible thing about Nun cho ga is the preservation…toe nails, hide intact, hair, trunk, intestines… pic.twitter.com/A8sY0ztsNF— Prof Dan Shugar (@WaterSHEDLab) June 24, 2022
Mammoths likely went extinct due to climate change. But will they stay that way, or do discoveries like this one make it more likely that humans will try and revive the species? One thing is for sure, getting a glimpse into the past through this baby woolly mammoth is incredibly exciting.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.