The year of the woolly mammoth lumbers on with the revelation of a 40,000-year-old skeleton plucked piece by piece from waters off the east coast of England.
North Sea Fossils, a Netherlands-based team of "archaeologists, salvagers, and palaeontologists… including an expert they call 'Mr. Mammoth'", collected the skull, tusks, and other fragments over multiple years. Eventually, they were able to assemble the entire animal. Team member Markus Broch told the Telegraph:
"During the Ice Age there was no sea between Holland and England and these great beasts roamed and died there. That is why their bones are still found by boats fishing in the North Sea. My father-in-law, who is a fisherman, started collecting these bones at young age because he was fascinated by them, and has now assembled a very large collection. We started selling duplicates from his collection online some years ago, which went so well that our business [has] grown and grown. Most weeks we go to the fishing ports to meet the fishing vessels and buy the fossils they caught. Sometimes we charter a boat of our own and go for special 'fossil hunting' expeditions. Because we see so many fossils we work very closely with the leading experts in the field, and we have assembled a number of complete skeletons of mammoths."
There's a very practical motivation for companies like North Sea Fossils; if you'll recall, a mammoth skeleton "complete with tusks" sold for $300,000 to a private collector at a late-November British auction.
Of course, there's also the current quest to clone a mammoth, which is apparently (allegedly) drawing closer to becoming a reality. As NBC cheekily points out, "It's not clear what effect a mammoth resurrection would have on the market for Ice Age specimens."