Liquid blood has been removed from the remarkably preserved remains of a foal buried in Siberian permafrost 42,0000 years ago, scientists report.
The mud-covered foal was found entirely intact last year. It has since been cleaned up, revealing an animal described as bay, 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 autopsy on the remains has revealed well-preserved organs, and muscles still possessed their natural colour.
Liquid blood was removed from blood vessels near the heart, well preserved thanks to the excellent burial conditions.
Semyon Grigoryev, who heads the Mammoth Museum in Yakutsk, told Russian media that the foal was the best-preserved Ice Age animal found to date.
It was as young as two weeks old at the time of its death, most likely from drowning in mud which ultimately froze.
Efforts are being made to clone the foal, with scientists from North-Eastern Federal University working with biotechnology experts in South Korea. Efforts center on finding a cell suitable for cloning. After making a cloned embryo, it would then be implanted in a modern-day mare.
However, obtaining a viable cell from such ancient remains has never been achieved. The biggest challenge arises from the nature of freezing, in which water crystallizes in cells and destroys them.
The Siberian Times reports that work is so advanced that the team is reportedly choosing a mother to carry the clone.
The foal 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 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.
Modern-day Yakutian horses are considered among the hardiest in the world, able to survive winter temperatures as low as minus 60 degrees Celsius.
Meanwhile, a recent paleontological seminar on the foal was held at the Mammoth Museum of North-Eastern Federal University.
“The study of materials will give a general idea of the microflora of the ancient horse,” said Yan Ahremenko, an associate professor of the Department of Histology and Microbiology at the university’s Medical Institute.
“Perhaps we will find lactic acid microorganisms and ancient bifidobacteria as in the case of the mammoth, in the intestines of which a large biocenosis of bacteria was found.”
Scientists have also conducted a computed tomography and scan of the foal carcass to create a 3D model of the external surface of the carcass and its internal structure.