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Mine mammoths

(and woolly rhinos)
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The number of individual mammoths preserved in Siberia is something like half the human population of the US. Some are presumably not in good condition. However, right now many of them have been used for ivory with the problem that elephant often gets passed off as mammoth.

In historical times, mammoth meat has been eaten. The largest weigh about eight tonnes. They are, of course, made of skin, bone, hair, ivory, meat and so on. Much of this is usable and has been used by people a long time ago. Similarly, woolly rhinos have substantial amounts of horn, which has a similar issue to ivory.

Russia is not doing well economically but has a whole load of this natural resource. Leather can be tanned using the biological materials present within the body of the animal such as the brains (mammoths have relatively large brains relative to their size) and the dung (a whole lot of dung in a mammoth colon, i suspect). I couldn't swear to this but it seems likely to me that many people in Siberia already have the skills to make leather in the traditional rather than the industrial way. They also presumably have a lot of other skills which enable them to use mammal carcasses efficiently, currently applied to the likes of horses and deer.

If they were to apply these skills to mammoths and woolly rhinos, there would be a considerable advantage. The products could be labelled as cruelty-free (though of course they wouldn't be as life is inherently violent), they would also provide an income for people understood to be indigenous and in need of economic support - that combination is particularly appealing to certain potential consumers - and since they would effectively be using a non-renewable resource, it would have a natural scarcity which would make it more profitable. It also provides the Russian economy with another source of income.

The problem is others passing non-extinct elephant and rhino stuff off as this stuff. That can presumably be addressed by something like amino acid racemisation dating, since most surviving mammoth and woolly rhino remains are of such an age as to allow that method and the temperature of the permafrost would either be established or easily ascertainable, allowing a high degree of accuracy. That same racemisation would render some of the products more resistant to decomposition.

nineteenthly, May 27 2011

Baked in the guitar world http://www.guitarpa...roducts&cat=1&sub=1
[pocmloc, May 27 2011]

Ground sloth hide http://fossiladdict...rehistoric-remains/
Second photo down, references elsewhere [nineteenthly, May 27 2011]

Off-topic grammer pedantry. http://en.wiktionar..._gerund-participles
[mouseposture, May 28 2011]

[link]






       Totally baked, at least since the 17th century.
spidermother, May 27 2011
  

       I find //life is inherently violent// a bit disturbing. I like the idea though. With the supply being finite, as you point out, it would be best to string it out for as long as possible. I reckon making soup would be good as you could have only a tiny bit of mammoth, then fill the rest up with vegetables.
Mony a Mickle, May 27 2011
  

       // Totally baked, at least since the 17th century. //   

       Well, in a sense it's been totally baked since Palaeolithic times. However, the devil is in the detail. Is it, for example, baked in the sense that billiard balls and piano keys are sometimes made of mammoth ivory? Are there shoes currently being worn which are made of mammoth leather? If so, what about hormones extracted from mammoth glands, vellum made from mammoth gut or gold leaf made using it?   

       And yes, life is inherently violent. We kill countless microbes every day or we die. Doesn't mean it shouldn't be minimised though.
nineteenthly, May 27 2011
  

       //We kill countless microbes every day or we die// you think too much
Mony a Mickle, May 27 2011
  

       Baked in the sense that mammoths have been mined. This could be more accurately titled "Mine mammoths more, and use them in new ways". It comes across as advocacy. Maybe I'm missing something.
spidermother, May 27 2011
  

       From the title, I thought this was going to be a stronger (though bulkier) replacement for pit ponies.
AbsintheWithoutLeave, May 27 2011
  

       Dang, [nineteenthly], I'm a bit disappointed here. I thought your idea was *MIME* mammoths... [edit] Just read your post below! Nice. [+]
Grogster, May 27 2011
  

       Yes, ivory is certainly used. [NT], i'm tempted to say you use a mammoth detector but i have no idea how to design one.   

       My original thought on this was to use them as a leather substitute. I then realised there's a whole lot more to them than just leather and ivory, for instance bone, presumably certain hormones and hair. A mammoth fur coat is an ethical fur coat, a mammoth trophy head hanging on the wall is a whole lot more acceptable than a moose's head, a yurt made of mammoth hide is almost certainly baked to a fossilised crisp and so on.   

       Maybe make an industrial vacuum cleaner out of a mammoth?   

       [Grogster], i'll get back to you on that.
nineteenthly, May 27 2011
  

       Nein, zees are MINE mammuts.   

       Anyway. All well and good, but I am not at all convinced that mammoth leather, glands or other squidgy bits are going to be much use. There may be a few examples well enough preserved but I think that, in most cases, the skin and internal organs will be too far gone to be much use.   

       Also, how does the economics work for leather, vellum and what-not? Is it going to be cheaper to find, excavate (using hot water, presumably, and a lot of it), assess and transport frozen mammoths than it is to grow half a dozen cows? If people were forced to dig up frozen mammoths, and somebody came along with this idea called "animal husbandry" and worked out how to keep cows, wouldn't we all say "wow! What a great idea comrade!"?   

       For ivory, though, fine.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 27 2011
  

       The ivory bit is baked.   

       Mammoth meat has been known to be edible. For that reason methinks 'tis useful otherwise. It would surely at least apply to thyroid hormones and bone matrix?   

       I still think we can agree on the feasibility for knocking up a quick stuffed mammoth on wheels for hoovering house to house.   

       In other news, forgive me for this one here but it's not worth posting as an idea since it's just an echo:   

       MIME Mammoths:   

       Take a standard nuclear DNA genome for Mammuthus primigenius - doesn't have to be complete or even particularly typical, just selected arbitrarily. Record the differences between this genome and a specific specimen of mammoth DNA. Find whereabouts in the sequence they occur. Then encode the differences by recording each codon as a six-bit value, then let them sort of "slip" into each other one bit at a time to fit them into the seven bits of ASCII. This format can then be used to send files representing mammoth DNA as email attachments.
nineteenthly, May 27 2011
  

       Some mammoth meat is alleged to be edible, but I'm not sure how much (or how desperate/publicity- hungry the eaters were). There's a story that it was served up by a Czar once, but if I were chef who didn't want to be a dead chef, I would be sorely tempted to just rough-up a bit of wild boar and pass it off.   

       I could be wrong, though. Have you any evidence to suggest that mammoth leather remains usefully tough?
MaxwellBuchanan, May 27 2011
  

       It might just be edible in the sense that it can be chewed up, swallowed and passed through the digestive system without being fatal, rather than actually nutritious.
nineteenthly, May 27 2011
  

       It wouldn't necessarily have to be usefully tough at the stage of being part of a frozen mammoth, but i would say that the presence of sabretooth buccal mucosa and ground sloth hide in a tough state counts as evidence that mammalian epidermis can last many millenia without being frozen or falling to bits.
nineteenthly, May 27 2011
  

       I don't think tanning will make hide tougher - just more pliable and less rottable. Interesting mention of sabretooths and sloths - linky?
MaxwellBuchanan, May 27 2011
  

       It's from a book by David Attenborough i read in the 'seventies. I'll have to have a bit of a root around. The sabretooth thing's really obscure and i've just Googled that without success. The groundsloth thing is probably much easier to find.   

       Edit: got one.
nineteenthly, May 27 2011
  

       Ah, but a ground-sloth hide doth not a ground sloth lederhose make.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 27 2011
  

       I seem to recall that long ago the presence of underground mammoths was attributed to the fact that they are burrowing animals in life and so are not generally seen on the surface. If this were the case, they might be used to produce excavations - for example, a tunnel to produce geothermal steam for purposes of tar sands extraction.
bungston, May 27 2011
  

       //undertaking// ... ? Is that a noun or a verb?
lurch, May 28 2011
  

       What i suggest could be described as an overtaking Mammoth unundertaking undertaking.
nineteenthly, May 28 2011
  

       [lurch] Either it's a noun, or it's a gerund, which is grammatically a noun (but historically, in English, was able to behave as both a noun and a verb - sometimes at the same time!)
spidermother, May 28 2011
  

       //at the same time// Cool! Can we have an example?
mouseposture, May 28 2011
  

       From Robinson Crusoe - "a bloody putting to death with the sword". "Putting" takes the adjective "bloody", thus behaving like a noun, while "with the sword" is adverbial.   

       A simpler example might be "His quickly leaving surprised me". Here "leaving" behaves both as a present participle (a verb) when it is modified by "quickly", and as a gerund (a noun) as the subject of the verb "surprised", and by association with the possessive "his".   

       Apparently, it's a phenomenon unique to English, and came about because the gerund and the present participle happen to be spelled the same in most cases. (Source: a book called "The Development of the Gerund in Middle English", which I happened to pick up and read once when I really should have been studying something completely unrelated. The author is Japanese.)
spidermother, May 28 2011
  

       Thank you. Apparently, in English, there's this thing called the "gerund-participle" (try to imagine that line being delivered by Stanley Kowalsky) <link>
mouseposture, May 28 2011
  

       I would be surprised by a mammoth's undertaking undertaking.
nineteenthly, May 28 2011
  

       They're already dead and buried, right? So the mammoth undertaking's undertaken.
mouseposture, May 28 2011
  

       I suppose one approach might be to clone a mammoth and get it to dig up others, but a Platybelodon would probably work better. Then the bits which can't be used could be buried again by the living mammoth, which would make it a mammoth undertaking.
nineteenthly, May 28 2011
  
      
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