- Reindeer shepherds recently discovered the carcass of an extinct cave bear in melting pamafrost on a remote Siberian island.
- The bear’s body is preserved, with its teeth, internal organs and even nose completely intact.
- Researchers announced on Monday that the ancient bear died between 22,000 and 39,500 years ago.
- Scientists have also discovered skeletons of the cave before, but there is not a complete corpse of this kind.
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High above the Arctic Circle is a group of Siberian islands, where ivory traders and scientists prepare to search for extinct creatures protected in sub-zero temperatures melting pemafrost.
Those Lyakhovsky islands gained an unprecedented discovery: a fully preserved adult cave bear – intact with its nose, teeth and internal organs.
Scientists think the cave bears died between 22,000 and 39,500 years ago. Its species, Ursus sphaeleus, lived during the last ice age and went extinct 15,000 years ago.
The body was first discovered by herds of reindeer, who then alerted researchers from the Northeast Federal University (NEFU) in Yakutsk, Russia.
“This is the first and only discovery of its kind – an entire bear carcass with soft tissues,” NEFU researcher Leena Grigiieva said in a press release on Monday.
Until now, scientists had only revealed skeletons of cave bears – never a completely intact specimen.
The cave bear lived from 22,000 to 39,500 years ago
Cave bears roamed while covered in glaciers in much of Europe and Asia, sharing the landscape with giant mammals, saber-toothed cats, and giant geese.
The creatures were massive: males could weigh up to 1 ton (2,200 lb), which is about 500 pounds heavier than the largest bear alive today.
Grigieiva and his colleagues said that until now, the age of bears is an estimate until carbon dating can indicate a more accurate age. They also hope to study the carcass in further detail and conduct a genetic analysis.
Another cave bear carcass – a cub – was recently found in Yakutia, Russia, so scientists hope to compare the DNA of the two animals.
The Thwing Siberian Perfrost has also led to other discoveries.
As the planet warms, the Siberian permafrost – the ground that remains frozen all year round – begins to melt. As it melts, ice creatures penetrate, after being frozen for tens of thousands of years, they begin to be detected.
The Lykhovsky Islands where the bear was found are filled with huge remains of wool from the last ice age.
Last year, scientists discovered a 40,000-year-old severe wolf head complete with fur, teeth, brain, and facial tissue on the banks of a river in Yakutia.
Other ancient creatures found in the Yakutia ice include two extinct cave lion cubs and one 42,000 year old falls.
As the temperature rises, more residues will start to be found.
Lauren Frauss contributed to reporting this story.