The remains of an Ice Age cave bear potentially 39,500 years old have been found in the Russian Arctic. This the first time scientists have seen a bear this old with its soft tissues still intact.
According to a team of scientists from the North-Eastern Federal University (NEFU) in Yakutsk, Siberia, this cave bear specimen even had its nose intact.
“Today this is the first and only find of its kind — a whole bear carcass with soft tissues,” North-Eastern Federal University scientist Lena Grigorieva said in a statement on Monday. “It is completely preserved, with all internal organs in place including even its nose. Previously, only skulls and bones were found. This find is of great importance for the whole world.”
A group of Lyakhovsky Islands reindeer herders stumbled upon the cave bear specimen before handing it off to scientists at NEFU.
The cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) is a prehistoric species, or sub-species, that lived in Eurasia in the Middle and Late Pleistocene period and became extinct some 15,000 years ago. Initial analysis from the scientists suggests that the cave bear is between 22,000 and 39,500 years old.
To determine the precise age of the bear, the scientists will use radiocarbon analysis on the bear specimen.
This isn’t the first significant discovery found in Siberia since the permafrost began melting in recent years. Previously, scientists have discovered a 46,000-year-old bird carcass, a 40,000-year-old giant wolf’s head, a preserved paleolithic baby horse and even a 30,000-year-old “giant” virus.