The melting of the Siberian permafrost has led to the discovery of numerous remains of prehistoric animals over the decades. The most recent turns out to be an incredibly well-preserved woolly rhino.
80% intact remains
In recent years, the carcasses of an incredibly well-preserved cave lion, foal or woolly mammoth have been found in Yakutia, and this type of discovery should multiply in the years to come under the effect of climate change which accelerates the melting of permafrost. Recently, Russian scientists announced the discovery of the remains of a woolly rhinoceros, 80% intact, near the place where the first specimen was found.
Preserved in ice for tens of thousands of years, the prehistoric animal still has its thick reddish-brown fur, all of its limbs and most of its internal organs, including its intestines. According to the researchers, the arrangement of the hairs suggests that he died along with his summer coat, although further laboratory analysis is needed to confirm this.
” It is the best preserved specimen to date from arctic Yakutia, if not the world. », Said the paleontologist Valery plotnikov, of the’Russian Academy of Sciences, at Siberian Times. ” This young specimen was between three and four years old and was living apart from its mother when he died, most likely by drowning. His gender remains unknown for the moment and we are awaiting radiocarbon analyzes to determine the precise period in which he lived. The most likely range is between 20,000 and 50,000 years. “
Discovery downstream of the river Tirekhtyakh in August, the remains are in a particularly difficult to access place. The vast isolated territory of Yakutia has only a few roads, and it was not until winter that a network of temporary ice lanes began to form, allowing truckers to transport goods to the northernmost towns in the region, and by extension of repatriate the remains of prehistoric animals that have been discovered there.
Further analysis and genetic sequencing planned
Yet even without a closer examination of the carcass, this new finding is significant. Previously, the only other woolly rhino found in this area was an even younger baby named Sasha, with a light coat. According to Plotnikov, the presence of such attributes confirms that woolly rhinos were already adapted to the freezing climate from an early age, while the markings on the horns of the recently discovered specimen suggest it was foraging for food.
” We found the presence of soft tissue on the back of the carcass, possibly genitals and part of the intestines », Explains the scientist. ” Studying their content will allow us to reconstruct the paleoenvironment of this period.. “
The team has already planned to send the rhino to Yakutsk, capital of the region, for a more in-depth analysis. Its carcass will then be transferred to Sweden, where researchers are working on sequencing the genomes of several woolly rhinos in order to better understand their history and the reasons for their extinction.
A few weeks ago, researchers announced the discovery of the perfectly preserved remains of a 57,000-year-old Cub in Canada.