National Geographic : 2009 May
• had to cram so much work into so little time. I just made a mental note and moved on." He also noticed that the mammoth s teeth were not held in their sockets by the usual connective tissue, and her muscles had separated from the bone in places where, in a normal specimen, they would have been rmly bonded. " at totally blew me away," Fisher says. "I kept asking myself, What s going on here? What does this mean? But there wasn t much time for re ection." The x-ray-opaque areas visible on the CT scan turned out to be brilliant blue crystals of vivianite, probably formed from phosphate leached out of her bones. Fisher noted a dense mix of clay and sand in her mouth and throat, which would support the hypothesis from the CT scan that she d su ocated, probably in riverbank mud. In fact, the sediment in Lyuba s trunk was packed so tightly that Fisher saw it as a possible explanation for the dent in her face. If she were frantically ghting for breath and inhaled convulsively, perhaps a partial vacuum was created in the base of her trunk, attening its so tissues against her forehead. To Fisher, the circumstances of Lyuba s death were clear. (Suzuki would later propose a dif- ferent interpretation, seeing more evidence for drowning than asphyxiation.) At the end of the autopsy, while Fisher and his colleagues were suturing up her little body, he also had a revelation about her peculiar smell. His mind at last relaxing after the intense effort of the past three days, he suddenly remembered his experiment with the dra horse and the smell that its bloated chunks of esh, naturally pick- led by lactobacilli, emitted as they bobbed on the surface of the pond. Lyuba had the same smell. Finally, her superb state of preservation Scientists cut a patch of skin and fat from Lyuba s abdomen. " is tells us as much about the mother as the baby," says Dan Fisher, noting that the healthy layer of white fat indicates the nursing calf was well fed. "If the mother had been ill or struggling to nd food, we would expect this layer to be much thinner."