Scientists dissect 3,500-year-old brown bear found in Siberian permafrost

A team of sci­en­tists con­duct­ed an autop­sy after rein­deer herders found a brown bear, near­ly per­fect­ly pre­served for 3,500 years in the per­mafrost of east­ern Siberia, on a des­o­late Arc­tic island.

“This find is com­plete­ly unique, the com­plete car­cass of an ancient brown bear,” says Max­im Chep­rasov, head of the lab­o­ra­to­ry of the Lazarev Mam­moth Muse­um at the North-East­ern Fed­er­al Uni­ver­si­ty of Yakut­sk in east­ern Siberia.

The female was spot­ted in 2020 by a rein­deer herder stick­ing out of the per­mafrost on Bol­shoy Lyakhovsky Island, part of the New Siber­ian arch­i­pel­ago about 3,000 kilo­me­ters east of Moscow.

Since it was found just east of the Bol­shoy Ese­likar Riv­er, it was named Ese­li­ka brown bear.

The extreme heat pre­served the bear’s soft tis­sue for 3,460 years, as well as its last food, feath­ers and plant remains. The bear was one meter tall and weighed near­ly 172 kilograms.

“For the first time, a corpse with soft tis­sues was in the hands of sci­en­tists, who had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to exam­ine the inter­nal organs and exam­ine the brain,” Chep­rasov said.

A team of Siber­ian sci­en­tists cut open the bear’s tough skin to allow sci­en­tists to exam­ine the brain and inter­nal organs for cytol­ogy, micro­bi­ol­o­gy, virol­o­gy, genet­ics and much more.

When dis­sect­ing this ancient beast, the bear’s pink tis­sue and yel­low fat were clear­ly visible.

They also sawed off the skull, sucked the bone dust out of it with a hoover, and then removed the brain.

“Genet­ic analy­sis has shown that this bear’s mito­chon­dr­i­al DNA is indis­tin­guish­able from mod­ern bears from north­east­ern Rus­sia (Yaku­tia and Chukot­ka),” says Cheprasov.

This bear was prob­a­bly 2–3 years old. The cause of death was a spinal cord injury.

But it’s unclear how the bear got to the island, which is sep­a­rat­ed from the main­land by a 31-mile strait. It may have crossed the ice, swam, or become part of the mainland.

The Lyakhovsky Arch­i­pel­ago is one of the world’s rich­est pale­on­to­log­i­cal trea­sures, attract­ing sci­en­tists and ivory traders in search of wool­ly mammoths.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.