Attempt under way to clone 40,000-year-old foal unearthed in permafrost

The remarkably preserved remains of the foal with some of the team behind the discovery. Photo: North-Eastern Federal University
The remarkably preserved remains of the foal with some of the team behind the discovery. Photo: North-Eastern Federal University

An effort will be made to clone the 40,000-year-old foal recently dug out of permafrost in Siberia.

The mud-covered foal was found entirely intact.

It has since been cleaned up, revealing an animal that was described as light ginger, with a black mane and tail, with a dark stripe along its spine.

The foal is described in media reports as being an extinct species. It is being called the Lenskaya, or Lena horse (Equus lenensis). It is said to be genetically different from those living in Yakutia now.

A remarkable series of images have also been posted online, showing initial investigations of the foal’s remains and the incredible preservation of detail.

The foal is thought to have been only 20 days old when it died.

It was was found at a depth of 30 meters in the famous Batagaika Crater, a 1km long teardrop-shaped gash in the Sakha Republic in Russia, near the Kirgilyak Mountains.

The foal is believed to have died 30,000 to 40,000 years ago.

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.

The effort to clone the foal, which will require using a horse as a surrogate, is being made by Russian and South Korean scientists who are already collaborating on efforts to recreate the woolly mammoth.

Researcher Dr Semyon Grigoriev confirmed that tissue samples had been taken from the foal for biotechnology research.

The Siberian Times reports that efforts are under way to find a cell suitable for cloning the foal. After making a cloned embryo, it would then be implanted in a modern-day mare.

A researcher told the Times: “If we find only one live cell, we can clone this ancient horse. If we have one live cell, we can multiply it and get as many embryos as we need.”

It was stressed, however, that obtaining a viable cell from such ancient remains had never been achieved.

The biggest challenge arises from the nature of freezing, in which water crystallizes in cells and destroys them.

Modern-day Yakutian horses are considered among the hardiest in the world, able to survive winter temperatures as law as minus 60 degrees Celsius.

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