The discovery of a well-preserved juvenile woolly mammoth suggests that ancient humans "stole" mammoths from hunting lions, scientists say.
Bernard Buigues of the Mammuthus organisation acquired the frozen mammoth from tusk hunters in Siberia.
Scientists completed an initial assessment of the animal, known as Yuka, in March this year.
Wounds indicate that both lions and humans may have been involved in the ancient animal's death...
...Lions will usually enter the carcass through the belly, clamp their teeth over the mouth in order to suffocate their prey, and chew at an elephant's muscular trunk.
However, Yuka's trunk is not damaged and there is only slight damage to the hide around the face.
Instead of entering Yuka's body via the belly, there is what Professor Fisher describes as "a bizarre set of damage on the hide".
This includes a "long, straight cut that stretches from the head to the centre of the back" as well as "very unusual patterned openings" into the skin and "scalloped margins" on the upper right-hand flank...
Each scalloped mark on the skin is made up by 15-30 small, serrations that "could be the saw-like motion of a human tool" and there are "some quite striking cut marks" on the leg bones, according to Professor Fisher.
Prof Fisher said they had questioned whether the cuts could have been made more recently.
"We asked the people who found this mammoth multiple times if they had done this. They replied 'No! We did not get our knives out' which suggests we're looking at some sort of interaction of humans, mammoths and lions.
"Were humans using the lions to catch mammoths and then moving the lions off their kill... was that what happened? I don't know but I wouldn't have thought about it without seeing it [the evidence]."
Supporting this argument, the Dorobo tribe still practise the art of stealing kills from lions in Kenya...
"Each new specimen has something to teach us, but Yuka provides some of the most dramatic evidence yet available for events surrounding the death of a woolly mammoth on the arctic steppes of Siberia..."
Preserved frozen remains of woolly mammoths, with much soft tissue remaining, have been found in the northern parts of Siberia. This is a rare occurrence, essentially requiring the animal to have been buried rapidly in liquid or semi-solids such as silt, mud and icy water, which then froze. This may have occurred in a number of ways. Mammoths may have been trapped in bogs or quicksands and either died of starvation or exposure, or drowning if they sank under the surface. The evidence of undigested food in the stomach and seed pods still in the mouth of many of the specimens suggests neither starvation nor exposure are likely. The maturity of this ingested vegetation places the time period in autumn rather than in spring when flowers would be expected. The animals may have fallen through ice into small ponds or potholes, entombing them. Many are certainly known to have been killed in rivers, perhaps through being swept away by river floods. In one location, by the Berelekh River in Yakutia in Siberia, more than 8,000 bones from at least 140 individual mammoths have been found in a single spot, apparently having been swept there by the current.