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Mammoth on the menu?

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2016 - Spring


An anthropology professor’s curiosity has debunked a myth about the main course at a 1951 dinner at the Explorers Club in New York. The dinner in the Grand Ballroom of the Roosevelt Hotel—which included Pacific spider crabs, green turtle soup, and bison steaks—boasted an entrée supposedly carved from the carcass of a 250,000-year-old woolly mammoth that had been preserved in glacial ice. Even some hungry explorers were skeptical—many thought it was an extinct giant ground sloth, Megatherium. By means of an explorer who missed the dinner, leftovers found their way to the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. Eric J. Sargis, anthropology professor and curator of mammalogy at the Peabody, along with Yale graduate students Matt Davis and Jessica Glass, and Gisella Caccone of the Yale Center for Genetic Analyses of Biodiversity, decided in 2014 to analyze the cooked meat’s DNA through mitochondrial gene sequencing. The verdict? Neither mammoth nor sloth, but green sea turtle.

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