42,000-year-old specimen believed to be 'best preserved Ice Age animal ever found in the world'
Siberia’s Verkhoyansk region boasts one of the most extreme continental climates on Earth allowing for the preservation of extinct animals buried deep in permafrost.
In 2018, mammoth tusk hunters unearthed the 42,000-year-old carcass of a foal from the Batagaika crater during the summer of 2018, according to CNN.
Russian researchers from North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk were able extract bodily fluids, including blood and urine, from the frozen carcass after an autopsy was conducted, according to the report. They estimate the foal was about 1 to 2 weeks old at the time of its death 42,000 years ago.
The region’s unique geographic location makes it prone to vast temperature extremes, AccuWeather Meteorologist Jim Andrews explained. The site of the discovery is roughly 40 miles from Verkhoyansk, which has an average January temperature of minus 55 degrees Fahrenheit, Andrews said. “It is an area of extreme cold,” he added.
Average highs and lows in January are between minus 50 for the high and minus 60 for the lows, he said, citing clear skies, very little sunlight and large open lands that contribute to the region’s frigid winter temperatures.
The summer months in the region bring significant changes with an average temperature of 55 degrees F in July, Andrews said.
However, during the summer of 2018 when the foal was unearthed, extreme heat was recorded in the area. Daytime highs soared in the region to 93 degrees Fahrenheit for nearly a week, Andrews said.
The discovery of liquid blood and urine and the preservation of the animal’s fur make it an even more rare find, according to CNN.
Semyon Grigoriev, director of the Mammoth Museum at North-Eastern Federal University, told CNN the animal likely drowned at two weeks old before becoming buried in the mud and preserved for thousands of years in a permafrost tomb.
"An autopsy showed the foal carcass was extremely well-preserved," he told CNN. "The hair cover also preserved most parts of the carcass, especially at the head and legs."
Internal organs and muscle tissue were intact, since the foal was so well preserved in the permafrost.
According to the Siberian Times, Grigoriev said, "‘We can now claim that this is the best preserved Ice Age animal ever found in the world."
As with other animal carcasses discovered in the region’s permafrost, scientists are hopeful they will be able to clone extinct animals like the woolly mammoth within a short time. Lab-grown woolly mammoths may only be a few years away, according to a 2017 report. Indeed, the scientists that found the 42,000-year-old sample are actively investigating whether they'll be able to clone this long extinct ancient animal using the DNA they've obtained, the university said in a news release.
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