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A menu mystery of mammoth proportions uncovered by DNA

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Portrait of assistant professor Jessica Glass
Jessica Glass
Assistant Professor
UAF-College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences

Accounts of woolly mammoths preserved so well in ice that their meat is still edible have a long history of intriguing the public and influencing paleontological thought on Quaternary extinctions and climate. Famously, scientists and explorers from all over the world purportedly dined on frozen mammoth from Alaska in 1951 at The Explorers Club in New York City. This event became an enduring legend and popularized traditions of eating rare and exotic food that continues to this day. The Yale Peabody Museum holds a sample of meat preserved from the 1951 meal, interestingly labeled as a South American giant ground sloth (Megatherium), not mammoth. We used ancient DNA to verify its identity, which if genuine, would extend the range of Megatherium over 600% and alter our views on ground sloth evolution. Tune in to learn about the biggest culinary mystery of the 20th century and the power of DNA to solve questions of the past, present and future.


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