Some of the world's leading mammoth experts are flocking to Wandsworth after construction workers digging the controversial Thames Tunnel unearthed prehistoric teeth, bones and tusks.

The ground-breaking discovery, thought to be from a woolly mammoth, was made this morning when diving teams began work under the Thames near Putney Bridge.

It has long been known that herds of the huge animals roamed the area that is now London and would have congregated on the banks of the river to drink.

Scientists believe it may be possible to clone one of the creatures within five years after finding "well-preserved" bone marrow from a thigh bone.

There is speculation that the London Zoo may be interested in acquiring several of them to compliment animals such as the Sumatran tigers which have proved a huge hit in recent weeks.

Archaeologists from Russia, Japan and the United States are expected to arrive in the UK within days to study the startling find, which could be 50,000-years-old.

Professor April Yumorina, a leading archaeologist from Russia's Sakha Republic Mammoth Museum, said it was an "exciting time" for scientists in her field.

She added: "We absolutely cannot wait to examine this discovery. Mammoths were known to roam parts of the UK but no fossils have been excavated there for almost 200 years."

Two years ago scientists in Siberia, eastern Russia, found mammoth bones after global warming thawed permafrost soil.

However they were unable to secure key mammoth nuclei, which is essential for the nucleus transplantation technique for cloning, with an undamaged gene.

Professor Florid Lapsoya, from the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum, Katsuyama, Japan, believes cloning the mammoth is now possible.

He explained: "We do believe it is possible to extract a gene from the fossils which can be used for the cloning process.

"By replacing the nuclei of egg cells from an elephant with those taken from the mammoth's marrow cells, embryos with mammoth DNA can be produced.

"We then hope to plant the embryos into elephant wombs for delivery as the two species are close relatives.

"It is thought the mammoth bones found under the Thames do contain the vital element needed for the cloning process."

This week’s discovery is not the first time the prehistoric creature’s bones have been found, an entire skeleton of a large mammoth was found in Ilford, Essex, in 1824.

Mammoth Factbox: - The largest known species of mammoth reached heights 4m and weighed up to 12 tonnes - approximately the same weight as a double decker bus.

- They lived from the Pliocene epoch (from around 5 million years ago) into the Holocene at about 4,500 years ago.

- A combination of climate change and hunting by humans si thought to be a possible explanation for their extinction.

- The word mammoth comes from the Russian mamont, meaning "earth horn".