Lyuba (Люба) is a female woolly mammoth calf (Mammuthus primigenius) who died c. 41,800 years ago at the age of 30 to 35 days. She is by far the best preserved mammoth mummy in the world, surpassing Dima, a male mammoth calf mummy which had previously been the best known specimen.
Lyuba was discovered in May 2007 by a Nenets reindeer breeder and hunter Yuri Khudi and his sons, in Russia's Arctic Yamal Peninsula. Khudi recognized that Lyuba was a mammoth carcass and that it was an important find; he refused to touch the carcass because Nenets beliefs associated touching mammoth remains with bad omens. Khudi travelled to a small town 150 miles away to consult his friend, Kirill Serotetto, on how to proceed. They notified the local museum director about the find, who arranged the authorities to fly Serotetto and Khudi back to the location of the find on the Yuribey river. However, they found that Lyuba's remains have disappeared. Suspecting that profiteers may have taken the mammoth, Khudi and Serotetto drove on a snowmobile to a nearby settlement Novy Port. There they discovered Lyuba's carcass exhibited outside a local store. It turned out that the store owner bought the body from Khudi's cousin, who removed the body from its original location, for two snowmobiles. Lyuba's body suffered minor damage in the process, with dogs having chewed off its right ear and a part of the tail, but remained largely intact. With the help of the police, Khudi and Serotetto reclaimed the body and had it transported by helicopter to the Shemanovsky museum in Salekhard. In gratitude for Khudi's role, the museum officials named the mammoth calf "Lyuba", a diminutive form of the word Lyubov' (Любовь, Russian: "Love"), after the first name of Khudi's wife.
The mummified calf weighed 50 kg (110 lb), was 85 centimeters (33.5 in.) high and measured 130 centimeters (51 in.) from trunk to tail, roughly the same size as a large dog. Studies of her teeth indicate she was born in spring following a gestation similar in length to that of a modern elephant.
At the time of discovery, the calf was remarkably well-preserved; her eyes and trunk were intact and some fur remained on her body. Lyuba's organs and skin are in perfect condition. The mammoth was transferred to Jikei University School of Medicine in Japan for further study, including computer tomography scans. Lyuba is believed to have suffocated by inhaling mud as she struggled while bogged down in deep mud in the bed of a river which her herd was crossing. Following death, her body may have been colonized by lactic acid-producing bacteria, which "pickled" her, preserving the mammoth in a nearly pristine state. Her skin and organs are intact, and scientists were able to identify milk from her mother in her stomach, and fecal matter in her intestine. The fecal matter may have been eaten by Lyuba to promote development of the intestinal microbial assemblage necessary for digestion of vegetation. Lyuba appears to have been healthy at the time of her death. By examining Lyuba's teeth, researchers hope to gain insight into what caused Ice Age mammals, including the mammoths, to become extinct at the end of the Pleistocene era around 10,000 years ago.
Lyuba was the subject of a 2009 documentary "Waking the Baby Mammoth" by the National Geographic Channel and of a 2011 children's book by Christopher Sloan, Baby Mammoth Mummy: Frozen in Time: A Prehistoric Animal's Journey into the 21st Century.
- Fisher, D.; Tikhonov, A., Kosintsev, P., Rountrey, A., Buigues, B., van der Plicht, J (March 2012). "Anatomy, death, and preservation of a woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) calf, Yamal Peninsula, northwest Siberia". Quaternary International 255: 94–105. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2011.05.040.
- Kosintsev, P; Lapteva, E., Trofimova, S., Zanina, O., Tikhonov, A., van der Plicht, J. (March 2012). "Environmental reconstruction inferred from the intestinal contents of the Yamal baby mammoth Lyuba (Mammuthus primigenius Blumenbach, 1799)". Quaternary International 255: 231–238. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2011.03.027.
- Rountrey, A.; Fisher, D., Tikhonov, A., Kosintsev, P., Lazarev, P., Boeskorov, G., Buigues, B. (March 2012). "Early tooth development, gestation, and season of birth in mammoths". Quaternary International 255: 196–205. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2011.06.006.
- Tom Mueller, Ice Baby, National Geographic, Vol. 215, no. 5 (May 2009) , pp. 30-51
- Rincon, Paul (2007-07-10). "Baby mammoth discovery unveiled". news.bbc.co.uk (The BBC). Retrieved 2007-07-13.
- Solovyov, Dmitry (2007-07-11). "Baby mammoth find promises breakthrough". reuters.com (Reuters). Retrieved 2007-07-13.
- Smith, Olivia (2009-04-21). "Baby mammoth Lyuba, pristinely preserved, offers scientists rare look into mysteries of Ice Age". Daily News (New York).
- van Geel, B; Fisher, D., Rountrey, A., van Arkel, J., Duivenvoorden, J., Nieman, A., van Reenen, G., Tikhonov, A., Buigues, B., Gravendeel, B (December 2011). "Palaeo-environmental and dietary analysis of intestinal contents of a mammoth calf (Yamal Peninsula, northwest Siberia)". Quaternary Science Reviews 30 (27-28): 3935–3946. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2011.10.009.
- Ice Age baby mammoth on display in Chicago, first time ever in U.S., USA Today, March 8, 2010. Accessed January 18, 2014
- Olivia Smith, Baby mammoth Lyuba, pristinely preserved, offers scientists rare look into mysteries of Ice Age, New York Daily News, April 21, 2009. Accessed January 18, 2014
- Dan Vergano, 'Pickled' baby mammoth opens window to Ice Age, USA Today, April 21, 2009. Accessed January 18, 2014
- Christopher P. Sloan, Baby Mammoth Mummy: Frozen in Time: A Prehistoric Animal's Journey into the 21st Century (2011), National Geographic kids ISBN 9781426308659
- National Geographic - Baby Mammoth, Frozen in Time
- Channel 4 television program "Waking the Baby Mammoth", 9 pm to 10.35 pm, 4 December 2009, shown in England