Local natives in northern Siberia have discovered the mummified remains of an ancient bison, the steppe bison, ancestor of modern bison that had been frozen in eternal ice nearly 9,000 years ago. The animal remains was well-preserved in layers of frozen ice, and its internal organs remain almost very intact.
The preserved remains of the almost perfect bison was moved to the Yakutian Academy of Sciences in Siberia where it was scheduled to undergo autopsy. The curator and manager of the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs in South Dakota, Olga Potapova notes that while remains of other stepped bison have been found over the years, not a single one of them was as well preserved as this particular bison mummy. The Yukagir bison mummy as its now called has all internal organs almost intact, and presents a good carcass on which further study can be done to determine what transpired at its death some 10,000 years ago and the environment in which it existed.
Potapova states that “normally, what you find with the mummies of megafauna in North America or Siberia is partial carcasses. They’re partly eaten or destroyed because they’re lying in the permafrost for tens of thousands of years. But the mummy was preserved so well that it [earned] a record for the level of its preservation.”
Most expert authorities that examined the bison mummy believe it must have died of starvation when it was around four years old, judging from the lack of fat in its abdomen. But then, researchers have been able to remove the animal’s brain to enable them study the brain tissue, and samples of its heart, blood vessels, and digestive system were also removed for further study.
“Anatomy, physiology, genetics these give us very good information to construct the bison’s habitat, behavior and style of life. If we get all this information, we’ll be able to pin down the real reasons for the extinction of the species,” Potapova said. To this end, the researchers also took tissues from the carcass’ lungs, liver, and intestines so that they could study the DNA of parasites that fed on the dead bison with a view to determining how long ago it died and the environmental conditions that existed during its lifetime.