Woolly mammoth in icy wastes
Woolly mammoth in icy wastes

Researchers claim they have found the "best preserved mammoth in history" with blood and muscle tissue still intact.

A team discovered the body of the extinct beast in the frozen wastes of Siberia. Their discovery rekindled hopes that its frozen blood could be used as base material to clone the prehistoric creature for the first time - Jurassic Park style.

But debate rages over the ethics and science of the process.

Scientists from the North Eastern Federal University discovered the remains of the mammoth in freezing temperatures on the Novosibirsk Islands in the Republic of Sakha.

They estimate it is 10,000 years old and died after becoming trapped in a swamp.

Scientist Semyon Grigoriev, who was on the expedition, told the Siberian Times: "We were really surprised to find mammoth blood and muscle tissue.

"The upper torso and two legs, which were in the soil, were gnawed by prehistoric and modern predators and almost did not survive.

"It is the first time we managed to obtain mammoth blood. No-one has ever seen before how the mammoth's blood flows."

Hopes of bringing to life a cloned version of the mammoth, which weighs one tonne, now rest on its blood - which flowed from ice cavities in the preserved animal's stomach in temperatures of around minus 10C.

In the Hollywood film Jurassic Park, long-extinct dinosaurs are brought back to life by using their blood - with disastrous consequences.

Grigoriev said the chances of successful cloning were still slim, despite the "exceptional condition" of the creature.

"We hope that at least one living cell of the mammoth was preserved, but even in such a good condition the chances of this are small," he said.

"It is great luck that the blood preserved and we plan to study it carefully."

First in line to carry out any attempting at cloning is a South Korean company, named after the man who established it, stem cell scientist Dr Hwang.

But whether it is wise to clone the mammoth simply because the expertise may exist to do so is subject to ethical and scientific debate.

TV presenter Dr Alice Roberts said: "There's something really questionable about bringing back a single mammoth.

"Mammoths are herd animals and their environment no longer exists, so what are you bringing that animal back for?" she said. "You're bringing it back to live in a zoo? The ethics are very questionable."

Experts at the Roslin laboratory - which cloned Dolly the sheep in 1996 - said the chances of successfully cloning an extinct animal using a rare whole cell were 1,000:1 against.