Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Buying time for mammoths
I didn't finish part two of my mammoth series this weekend. Instead I went on my annual expedition to a mall looking for secular winter holiday gifts. Not much has changed in the mall since my last visit. The mall is still filled with more skinny blondes in tight jeans than I thought existed. The Bon has become Macy's. A fat white kid was trying to be a hip-hop DJ outside Nordstrom's, but the mall would only let him play easy-listening R&B, which he tried to perk up with some scratching, but his heart wasn't in it. The cable company set up a booth with big-screen teevees and comfy chairs that were filled with shell-shocked husbands and fathers. I thought that was a nice public service.

But you don't want to hear about malls. You want to hear about mammoths. Here's a nice story about mammoths.
Scientists have pieced together part of the genetic recipe of the extinct woolly mammoth.

The 5,000 DNA letters spell out the genetic code of its mitochondria, the structures in the cell that generate energy.

The research, published in the online edition of Nature, gives an insight into the elephant family tree.

It shows that the mammoth was most closely related to the Asian rather than the African elephant.

The three groups split from a common ancestor about six million years ago, with Asian elephants and mammoths diverging about half a million years later.

"We have finally resolved the phylogeny of the mammoth which has been controversial for the last 10 years," lead author Michael Hofreiter of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, told the BBC News website.

This doesn't mean anyone will be cloning mammoths anytime soon, but it is cool to ferret out a few more facts about who they were and where they fit in to the scheme of things. Meanwhile, I'm still writing; there will be a part two.

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