Parasitic diseases of woolly mammuth (Mammuthus primigenius Blumenbach, 1799)

N.V. Serdyuk and E.N. Maschenko

Proceedings of the Zoological Institute RAS, 2018, 322(3): 306–314  ·

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Paleontological studies are basically the studies of skeletal remains of organisms. However, the discovery of frozen mummies of Pleistocene mammals with preserved soft tissues and internal organs makes it possible to identify some features of animal biology that are inaccessible to the study of skeletons. Fossil frozen mummies become a valuable source of information on diet, seasons of death, migration and ecology, diseases, including parasitic diseases. The cases of detection of fossil parasites in the remains of Pleistocene mammals are always rare and random. Until recently there have been no dedicated effort to search for fossil parasites. Parasites of the Indigirka ground squirrel, the Egorov narrow-skull vole, the Pleistocene steppe bison, the Lena horse (Equus lenensis Russanov, 1968), and the woolly mammoth are known at the moment. This paper presents an overview of parasite finds in woolly mammoth Mammuthus primigenius (Blumenbach, 1799). For two centuries of studies of this species, a large volume of diverse data have been accumulated. The aim of this work was a making the review of cases of detection of parasites in mammoth. We discuss the specific cases of mammoth mummy studies, namely the Berezovka mammoth, the Shandrin mammoth, the Kirgilyakh mammoth, the Sopochnaya Karga Mammoth. As a result, the presence of following ectoparasites of the order Diptera was established: Cobboldia (Mamontia) russanovi Grunin, 1973, and Protophormia terraenovae Robineau-Desvoidy, 1830. The stomach botfly Cobboldia (Mamontia) russanovi is highly specific ectoparasite of woolly mammoth. Also helminths of classes Nematoda and Cestoda were found in the mammoth mummies. At the present, it is not possible to reliably determine the species-specific endoparasite of woolly mammoth.

Key words

ecto- and endoparasites, parasitic diseases, Late Pleistocene, mammoth

Submitted November 22, 2017  ·  Accepted August 29, 2018  ·  Published September 26, 2018


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