For the first time in history, a group of researchers managed to scan a fang of woolly mammoth complete, in an operation that will allow more clarity on the internal components of the structure.
All this came out in a new article called “Images in Radiology” published in the magazine Radiology. The researchers were able to do a full scan of the tusk using a newer clinical CT scanner. The new technology allows large-scale imaging without having to perform multiple partial scans.
“Working with precious fossils is challenging, as it is important not to destroy or damage the specimen,” said the paper’s lead author, Tilo Niemann, MD, head of CT, and cardiac and thoracic radiology at the Department of Radiology at Kantonsspital Baden. in Baden, Switzerland. “Even if there are various imaging techniques to assess the internal structure, it was not possible to scan an entire tusk without the need for fragmentation or at least having to do multiple scans that then had to be carefully assembled.”
The extinct woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) was about the size of a modern African elephant and lived throughout Eurasia and North America. Most woolly mammoths became extinct with the conclusion of the last Ice Age, with the last specimens living about 6,000 years ago.
Proboscidean tusks have allowed researchers to age and identify specific life-altering occurrences based on annual growth increment analysis.
The tusk is a total of 206 centimeters (cm) in length, almost 7 feet. It has a basal diameter (measured at the base) of 16 cm, just over 6 inches. The total diameter of the object, taking into account its helical or spiral curvature, is 80 cm, or just over 2.5 feet.
Tusks consist primarily of two types of material: cementum, a bone-like substance, and dentin, which lies beneath the cementum and accounts for most of the tusk’s mass.
“It was fascinating to see the internal structure of the mammoth tusk,” said Dr. Niemann. The researchers found a total of 32 cones, resulting in a minimum age of 32 at death, “approximately 17,000 years ago,” the researcher added.