Mammoth calf on tour in Canada

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Mammoth calf, preserved

The surprisingly well-preserved body of a woolly mammoth calf is on loan from Siberia to Victoria’s Royal British Columbia Museum.  The infant mammoth is thought to have been one month old at the time that she drowned and froze to death 40,000 years ago.  Lyuba is named for the wife of the Siberian shepherd who discovered the mammoth.  I’m sure the wife was thrilled about that.  From CBC News:

New Royal BC Museum exhibit features Lyuba, a 40,000-year-old baby mammoth

Exhibit also features a dire wolf, made famous by Game of Thrones

By Liam Britten, CBC News Posted: May 29, 2016 6:00 AM PTLast Updated: May 29, 2016 1:33 PM PT

Dire wolves, mastodons and short-faced bears, oh my.

Those are just some of the creatures featured in a new exhibit at Victoria’s Royal BC Museum called Mammoths: Giants of the Ice Age.

The exhibit includes a 40,000-year-old baby woolly mammoth as its centrepiece, which the museum calls the best-preserved specimen in existence.

The mammoth, on loan from the Shemanovskiy Yamal-Nenets District Museum and Exhibition Complex in Siberia, has been travelling the world since 2010.

The mammoth is named Lyuba, after the wife of the Siberian herder who discovered it, according to Evgeniya Khzyainov, deputy director and curator for the Shemonovskiy Museum.

Khzyainov told All Points West’s Sterling Eyford that the mammoth was about one or two months old when it died by drowning.

“When she died she wasn’t damaged by other animals, she was frozen, and when she froze it was [lucky] she wasn’t damaged again by animals,” said Khzyainov…

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Georgians can see Vietnam Memorial locally

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“The Wall That Heals” is open for visitation at Veterans Memorial Park at 651 Hyden Tyler Road in Chatsworth, Georgia from now until the end of the week.  The portable version of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. gives smaller communities a chance to see the monument.  On Sunday, May 15, there will be a closing ceremony before the mobile war memorial is moved to its next location.  Chattanooga’s WRCB has the story:

Vietnam Veterans Memorial visit North Georgia

Harvey Roach served in Vietnam from 1967 through 1969.

He remembers difficult days when he returned home to Georgia.

“We were called baby killers, we were spit on, you name it,” said Roach.

He also remembers the lives lost- brothers and sisters he plans to honor by visiting the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Chatsworth.

“When they set the wall up, it’s going to get emotional,” said Roach.

Tim Tetz with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund says the traveling wall allows everyone who was touched by Vietnam to remember what happened 50 years ago.

“This gives an opportunity for someone who lost a love one who served there, to pay their respects to their name and remember their sacrifice,” said Tetz.

The wall constructed of powder-coated aluminum will make 35 stops through December.

Tetz says for some, the wall offers healing.

“This is called: “The wall that heals.” When our founder came up with the idea to build a national memorial for our Vietnam veterans he realized there would be some healing there, but didn’t realize how much,” said Tetz.

Tetz has been carrying the stories of people who served in Vietnam since 1999, including the four people from Murray County who died in the war.

He says the mobile wall gives those who haven’t had the chance to visit the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., the chance to honor the 58,307 men and women who died…

The wall will return to Georgia Nov. 16-20 in Woodstock.

“Mammoth species interbred, perhaps extensively”

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A new study of mammoth DNA suggests that mammoths mated outside of their species. Mammoth tissue specimens reveal that woolly mammoths of cold regions in North America bred with temperate climate Columbian mammoths. The news is surprising to me given the social cohesion of mammoth herds. I would have thought that herds would have resisted advances by bull mammoths with distinctive phenomes.

Phys.org sums up the study:

…By using differences in the size and shape of their fossilized teeth, a number of North American mammoth species have been identified. But, some scientists are not confident this method of species categorization tells the whole story.

“Species boundaries can be very blurry. We might find differences in features of the teeth or skeleton that closely correspond to what we think are real species boundaries. But other features may not correspond to those boundaries, suggesting that what we formerly regarded as separate species are in fact not at all,” explains Hendrik Poinar, a Professor at McMaster University in Canada, who co-led the new study with his former graduate student Jake Enk and collaborator Ross MacPhee, a Professor at the American Museum of Natural History.

Professor Poinar and his co-authors used cutting-edge methods to distinguish species of North American mammoths. Tiny samples of fossilized mammoth bone, teeth and faeces, were generously donated by a number of museums across America and Canada. DNA was extracted from these samples in a specialized laboratory of the Ancient DNA centre at the McMaster University, and used to create a family tree of their evolution. The results proved to be very interesting.

North American mammoths such as the Columbian and Woolly Mammoths were historically thought to originate from two separate primitive species. However, this latest DNA analysis agrees with a more recent idea that all North American mammoths originated from a single primitive species, the Steppe Mammoth.

“Individuals of the Woolly and Columbian mammoths look like they represent different species in terms of their molar teeth, but their genetics say that they were not completely separate in the evolutionary sense and could successfully interbreed,” says Professor MacPhee.

Professor Poinar continues, “Mammoths were much better at adapting to new habitats than we first thought—we suspect that subgroups of mammoths evolved to deal with local conditions, but maintained genetic continuity by encountering and potentially interbreeding with each other where their two different habitats met, such as at the edge of glaciers and ice sheets.”

So, while mammoths clearly evolved differences in their physical appearance to deal with different environments, it did not prohibit them from cross-breeding and producing healthy offspring…

Mammoth skull unearthed in Oklahoma

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A construction worker in Oklahoma recently found part of a skull and tusk of a Columbian mammoth.  Mammoth remains are found a couple of times per year in that part of the country.  They must have been plentiful back then.  From the Spanish wire service EFE:

Archaeologists have found a mammoth skull and two tusk fragments in a sand pit in northeastern Oklahoma, media reports said.

The Oklahoma Archeological Survey, or OAS, identified the animal as a Columbian mammoth, one of the last species of that giant mammal to inhabit both North America and Central America, ranging between what are today the United States and Costa Rica.

“The exact age of the deposit has not yet been determined,” the OAS said in a post on its Facebook page.

Archaeologists went to the scene after receiving images of part of a skull being dug out of the sand near Alva, located 240 kilometers (150 miles) northeast of Oklahoma City.

Before becoming extinct more than 11,000 years ago, mammoths were common during the Pleistocene epoch in this central area of the United States, where two or three mammoth remains are found every year, archaeologists say.

The Columbian mammoth could reach a shoulder height of 4 meters (13 feet), weigh 8 to 10 tons and have a life span of 80 years…

General Assembly creates fintech study group

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Atlanta's Transaction Alley

Map of Atlanta-area fintech companies

On the final day of the legislative session last month, the Georgia House of Representatives approved the creation of a new financial technology committee.  The study committee will examine possible incentives such as tax breaks for financial technology companies and payment processors in Georgia.

Lawmakers noted in the text of Senate Resolution 883 that over 70 percent of all financial transactions processed in the United States are actually processed by companies headquartered in Georgia.  Georgia’s “Transaction Alley” is responsible for 40,000 jobs plus another 40,000 related support jobs.  Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) and Elena Parent (D-Atlanta)—the senator for the district I live in—were among the cosponsors.

Study committees like this tend to schedule a few hearings where they talk to industry experts and a couple of state government officials.  They come up with reports that often become the basis of legislation in the upcoming year.  I would predict that this study committee may come up with some tax incentives for financial technology companies to locate or remain in Georgia.  They could design these along the lines of Georgia’s successful film tax credit.  The committee may also encourage venture capital investments into fintech startups.

Lab seeks artificial womb for mammoths

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asian elephant calf in the womb

It would be too controversial to implant a woolly mammoth embryo in an endangered Asian elephant surrogate.  Therefore, an artificial mammoth womb must be created.  So says Dr. George Church, the Harvard biologist on a mission to resurrect the mammoths.

Scientific American reports that “editing, birthing and then raising mammoth-like elephants is a huge undertaking. Church says that it would be unethical to implant gene-edited embryos into endangered elephants as part of an experiment. So his lab is looking into ways to build an artificial womb; so far, no such device has ever been shown to work.”

The creation of a mammoth-like uterus would be quite the scientific accomplishment since scientists have yet to master that with existing animals…

Georgia honors 19 Vietnam combat Marines

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Viet Marines

This is part of a broader, overdue program to thank over 200,000 of Georgia’s Vietnam veterans for their service.  From the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:

Georgia recognizes Vietnam vets who served in Marine Corps

  • 19 Marines from the Chattahoochee Valley were presented a State Certificate of Honor and lapel pin for service in Vietnam
  • The recognition is part of the state’s program to recognize 234,000 Georgia veterans who served in armed forces during Vietnam
  • Program started a year ago as part of the 50th anniversary of the war