The perfectly preserved remains of a three-month-old foal frozen in permafrost for up to 40,000 years has been unearthed in Siberia.The foal was found at a depth of 30 meters in the famous Batagaika Crater in eastern Siberia.
The crater is a 1km long teardrop-shaped gash in the Sakha Republic in Russia, near the Kirgilyak Mountains. The land began to sink due to the thawing of permafrost in the 1960s after the surrounding forest was cleared.
The thawing, slumping land has yielded many Ice Age fossils, many having been well preserved by the permafrost. They include bison, elk, mammoth and reindeer.
Scientists describe the discovery of the foal, buried in a layer which suggests it is 30,000 to 40,000 years old, as unique.
The discovery was made by researchers from the Scientific Research Institute of Applied Ecology of the North, which is part of the North-Eastern Federal University, and the Japanese University of Kindai, along with a TV crew from the Fuji TV company.
Researcher Semyon Grigoriev said samples have been taken from the layer in which the foal was found. Analysis of the material will provide important insights into the habitat in which the animal existed.
The foal appears complete. Its dark brown coat is said to be intact, as is its mane, tail and internal organs. One unconfirmed media report suggests that stripes are visible on its lower legs.
The body does not appear to be damaged in any way.
Grigoriev says it is the first discovery of a complete young horse of this era in such a good state of preservation.
The horse dates from the Palaeolithic period, when humans were still hunter-gatherers.