Reindeer herders in Siberia stumbled across the first ever completely intact remains of an ancient cave bear — including its internal organs and its nose.
“Today this is the first and only find of its kind — a whole bear carcass with soft tissues,” said Russian researcher Lena Grigorieva in a statement. “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.”
The bear will be studied at the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, a leading research facility into extinct woolly mammoths and rhinos, the research team said.
The long-extinct species lived in Eurasia in the Middle and Late Pleistocene period until about 15,000 years ago, the scientists said. Preliminary analysis suggests the bear to be between 22,000 and 39,500 years old, but radio carbon analysis will determine its precise age, senior researcher Maxim Cheprasov from the Mammoth Museum laboratory in Yakutsk said in the statement.
Ursus spelaeus and modern bears diverged from a common ancestor between 1.2 million and 1.4 million years ago, reported Gizmodo. They could grow to more than 1,540 pounds.
The herders, who gave permission for the research, found the bear on Bolshoy Lyakhovsky Island, or Great Lyakhovsky, the largest of the Lyakhovsky Islands, the Russian team said. That in turn is part of the New Siberian Islands archipelago, which lies between the Laptev Sea and the East Siberian Sea in northern Russia.
It will take time for scientists to travel to the extremely remote site, which is thousands of miles from Mosco, CNN said.
Melting permafrost has yielded many significant discoveries such as mammoths, woolly rhinos, and puppies and cave lion cubs, CNN noted. The university also said that a well-preserved carcass of a cave bear cub had also been found in another area on Yakutia’s mainland, and they hoped to obtain a DNA sample from that animal’s remains.
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