The well-preserved remains of a 9,000 year old extinct ancestor of the modern bison was found recently in Siberia. Members of the Yukagir tribe in northern Siberia discovered the remains of the bison back in 2011.
From there, the bison’s remains were transported to the Yakutian Academy of Sciences in Siberia, where researchers studied the animal.
Several other steppe bison mummies have been discovered over the years, but none were almost perfectly preserved like the one found in 2011. Researchers found its internal organs were almost completely intact, including its heart, blood vessels and digestive system. Even the bison’s brain was found intact. Though, some of the organs had shrunk significantly.
“The exceptionally good preservation of the Yukagir bison mummy allows direct anatomical comparisons with modern species of bison and cattle, as well as with extinct species of bison that were gone at the Pleistocene-Holocene boundary,” Evgeny Maschenko, a member of the team that’s studying the mummy, said in a written statement.
As for what killed the bison? Researchers don’t have a definitive answer, but starvation is being looked into as a possibility due to the lack of fat around the bison’s abdomen.
Yevgeniy Maschenko, senior researcher at the Mammals’ of the Laboratory of the Russian Academy of Science Paleontology Institute told the Siberian Times, “The most interesting are histology samples, since it will be our first chance to take them with a view of studying parasites. Perhaps they didn’t preserve, but we will find their DNA and the traces of their activity. By performing biochemical tests and then comparing them by identical tests of currently living worms we will be able to find out what kind of parasites lived 9,000 years ago.”
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.
I can’t wait to learn more about the bison discovery. Mainly, the exact cause of death – and how the hell it froze quickly enough to become that well-preserved.
Image credits: Academy of Sciences Yakutia