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Mammoth Hemoglobin

May 31, 2010

Scientists have resurrected a blood protein of the extinct woolly mammoth.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
The mammoth’s bloody past…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Arctic animals have evolved a number of strategies to deal with extremely cold temperatures. But uncovering these adaptations is difficult if the animals in question happen to be extinct. That didn’t deter comparative physiologist Kevin Campbell, however. Using DNA from the woolly mammoth, his team recently re-created red-blood cell proteins identical to those which once coursed through the extinct mammal’s circulatory system. Campbell says their unique hemoglobin structure helped the animals conserve heat while still getting oxygen to their extremities.

KEVIN CAMPBELL (University of Manitoba):
The changes in the mammoth aren’t found in any living animals.

HIRSHON:
He says hemoglobin is one of the best understood proteins in the world.

CAMPBELL:
I find it amazing that we were able to take an extinct species and learn something entirely new that we never knew about hemoglobin.

HIRSHON:
I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.