From: LARRY KLAES (email@example.com)
Date: Wed Aug 21 2002 - 08:54:34 PDT
RE-CREATING EDEN: HOW HUMANS MAY BRING EXTINCT SPECIES BACK TO LIFE
>From The Times, 19 August 2002
Mammoth hopes rest on icy DNA
>From Clem Cecil in Moscow
JAPANESE scientists hope to use parts of a mammoth preserved in the Siberian
permafrost to impregnate an Indian elephant with its sperm and clone the
extinct animal for display at an Ice Age wildlife park.
Organisers of the planned park are now populating it with species from that
time in preparation for the much hoped-for return of the mammoth. Several
hundred wild horses have been sent to graze in land set aside for the park
in the far North East of Siberia on the River Kolyma.
Musk ox from another part of Siberia have also been imported, and
discussions on buying bison have started with Canada.
A hunter discovered two frozen mammoth legs in the permafrost eight years
ago, but because of lack of funds the local authorities only visited the
site in 1997 and could not afford to excavate. Japanese interest in the find
was excited and two universities funded an expedition this month.
The mammoth appears to have been killed by an avalanche which made it tumble
on to its rump, and crushed it on to the permafrost between 25,000 and
30,000 years ago.
The science departments from the universities of Kinki and Tifu in Japan,
who have sponsored the excavation of the legs, hope to receive Russian
permission in the autumn to export fragments of mammoth skin for research.
Mammoths frozen immediately after death are rare gems, as there is a higher
chance of their body parts and internal organs being preserved.
The part of the body that the Japanese are most keen to get are the
testicles. Finding frozen mammoth sperm would provide a significant boost to
any cloning exercise, because sperm preserves well when frozen, even if
thawed and refrozen several times.
If impregnating an Indian elephant with mammoth sperm produced young, that
offspring would be impregnated with more mammoth sperm and the process
repeated in the next generation, producing a creature that was 88 per cent
mammoth. The process would take about 50 years. The alternative is to clone
the mammoth from DNA found in the soft tissue.
Since the cloning of Dolly the sheep each new mammoth find is seen as a
potential step towards the cloning of the extinct creature.
The frozen legs contain well-preserved soft tissue, which has been removed
to enormous freezers in the Museum of the Mammoth in Yakutsk in Siberia.
Preservation methods for excavated mammoth remains have improved
dramatically in Russia. In 1977 scientists found a whole baby male, "Dima",
in a goldmine by the River Kolyma. It was excavated using water pumps which
drenched the tissue beyond recognition, rendering the animal useless for any
process of reproduction by insemination or cloning. Russian scientists admit
that all the greatest mammoth finds to date have been ruined by crude
excavation and preservation methods.
About 100 mammoths have been recovered in Russia, among them the world's
finest museum examples. These include the skeleton of the Adams mammoth,
found in Yakutia in 1806, and the Berezovka mammoth, recovered in
northeastern Siberia in 1901. This had an erect penis, thought to be because
it died of asphyxiation. The stuffed Berezovka mammoth and the skeleton are
both on display at the Zoological Museum of St Petersburg.
It is thought that as many as ten million mammoths are buried in the
Siberian permafrost. This is shallow in many areas, but because Siberia is
so sparsely populated, it is thought that mammoth remains may go unearthed
for hundreds of years in more impassable areas.
Copyright 2002, The Times
(9) AND FINALLY: ASTRONOMERS DETECT SUDDEN CLIMATE CHANGE ON PLUTO - BLAME
THE U.S. :-)
>From Andrew Yee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
1400 West Mars Hill Road
Flagstaff, Arizona 86001
Phone: (928) 774-3358
FAX: (928) 774-6296
Kristi Phillips, Manager, Media Relations & Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: AUGUST 14, 2002
Pluto's Atmosphere Changing
FLAGSTAFF, AZ -- New findings by astronomers from Lowell Observatory and the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) indicate that Pluto's atmosphere
is undergoing a cooling trend and other global changes.
Using data from the most recent Pluto occultation, Dr. Marc Buie of Lowell
Observatory (Flagstaff, Ariz.) and Dr. James Elliot of MIT (Cambridge,
Mass.) discovered that Pluto's atmosphere has changed drastically since the
last time Pluto occulted a star 14 years ago.
Buie observed the occultation and Elliot compared Buie's findings with data
from the 1988 Pluto occultation.
"In the last 14 years, one or more changes have occurred," Buie said.
"Pluto's atmosphere is undergoing global cooling, while other data
indicates that the surface seems to be getting slightly warmer. Some change
is inevitable as Pluto moves away from the sun, but what we're seeing is
more complex than expected."
Buie hopes these findings will give additional urgency to NASA's plans to
send a spacecraft to Pluto, the only planet not yet observed up close. The
Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission, planned to
launch in 2006 and reach Pluto a decade later, seeks to answer questions
about the surfaces, atmospheres, interiors and space environments of the
solar system's outermost objects, including
Pluto and its moon, Charon.
"We cannot fully explain what has caused these dramatic changes to Pluto's
atmosphere," Buie said. "The Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission is our best hope for
putting all the puzzle pieces together." Last month, the Senate
Appropriations Committee included money in NASA's budget for the
Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission. Buie said he is hopeful that the U.S. House of
Representatives also will fund the project.
During a stellar occultation, an object passes in front of a star either
partially or completely blocking the star's light from view. By recording
how the dimming of the starlight changes over
time, scientists can calculate the density, pressure and temperature of the
object's atmosphere. Observing two or more occultations by the same body at
different times lets astronomers determine whether the object's atmosphere
The structure and temperature of Pluto's atmosphere was first determined
during an occultation in 1988. That occultation plus additional data
revealed that Pluto has a tenuous, extended
atmosphere composed of nitrogen with traces of methane and carbon monoxide.
Results also showed that the light signature from the occulted star dimmed
gradually then abruptly dropped off -- a puzzling phenomenon thought to be
caused either by a smog layer or an abrupt decline in atmospheric
Assisted by Sr. Oscar Saa of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory,
Buie used a 14-inch portable telescope in Northern Chile to record Pluto's
brief pass in front of the distant star P126A on July 19. Buie and Elliot's
findings are intriguing. This Pluto occultation revealed a noticeably
different light signature than the 1988 event. The abrupt drop in starlight
seen in the 1988 occultation is no longer present and Pluto's atmosphere has
cooled by 20-55 degrees Fahrenheit. Both factors indicate that a dynamic
atmospheric change is taking place.
"A 1997 Triton occultation revealed that the surface of Triton, Neptune's
largest moon, had warmed since the Voyager spacecraft first explored the
moon in 1989," Elliot said. "But the changes observed in Pluto's atmosphere
are much more severe."
Buie said he is eager to continue exploring our solar system's most distant
planet, and is determined to unravel what these atmospheric changes mean and
why they are happening. Astronomers will have another opportunity August 20
when Pluto passes in front of a star known as P131.1.
"Pluto has always been one of the most fascinating objects in the solar
system to me," Buie said. "These drastic changes to its atmosphere, coupled
with the possibility that Pluto's surface is getting warmer, make exploring
the planet that much more compelling."
Astronomers from around the globe attempted to observe the July 19 Pluto
occultation using small/portable and large/stationary telescopes.
Observation attempts were made by: Elliot and MIT
student Michael Person using the twin 6.5-meter Magellan telescopes in
Chile; Edward Dunham from Lowell Observatory and Kris Sellgren of Ohio State
University using large telescopes
at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile; Jay Pasachoff, Steve
Souza and David Ticehurst from Williams College; Brian Taylor and Cathy
Olkin from Lowell Observatory; European
teams led by Bruno Sicardy; English, Belgium and Spanish astronomers in the
Canary Islands; and astronomers using the Gemini South telescope at Cerro
Preparing for the Occultation
The main challenge of observing a stellar occultation for a small body like
Pluto is predicting where the shadow's path will fall on Earth. Predicting a
solar eclipse is much easier because the
Sun and Moon are large, allowing solar eclipse paths to be accurately
calculated years in advance. The P126A occultation (July 19) was identified
several years ago with data from MIT's
Wallace Astrophysical Observatory located in Westford Massachusetts. Late
this spring, several hundred exposures of Pluto and the star were recorded
at Lowell Observatory by Edward
Dunham and students Joyance Meechai and Andy Morrison; other exposures were
taken at the U.S. Naval Observatory's Flagstaff Station by astronomers Ron
Stone and Steve Levine. These data were reduced by astronomers Amanda Bosh
and Lawrence Wasserman at Lowell Observatory, and then passed to MIT, where
students Michael Person, Katie Carbonari, Alison Klesman, Eric McEvoy,
Shen Qu did further reductions. Elliot and MIT student Kelly Clancy carried
out the final calculations. The result of the prediction can be seen on the
In addition, Buie's diary chronicling his observing experiences during the
July occultation can be viewed at
Lowell Observatory's occultation research is supported by the NASA Planetary
Astronomy Program and the Friends of Lowell Observatory. Elliot's (MIT)
research is partly supported by the
National Science Foundation and by the NASA Planetary Astronomy Program; the
Williams College expedition was supported by Research Corporation and New
Horizons. Logistical support was provided by the National Optical Astronomy
Observatory (NOAO), which operates the Cerro Tololo Inter-American
Observatory for the National Science Foundation.
NOTE: Marc Buie and James Elliot can be reached, respectively, at
email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
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