TechPrehistoric wolf unearthed in Siberia reveals ancient secrets

Prehistoric wolf unearthed in Siberia reveals ancient secrets

The Siberian permafrost still holds many secrets.
The Siberian permafrost still holds many secrets.
Images source: © North-Eastern Federal University

6:24 PM EDT, June 28, 2024

In 2021, the body of a prehistoric wolf was discovered in the Siberian permafrost near the Tirekhtyakh River in Russia's Abyysky District. The predator, over 44,000 years old, was transported to the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Sakha in Yakutia and subjected to an autopsy by scientists from the Mammoth Museum of the North-Eastern Federal University and the European University in Saint Petersburg. Researchers were looking for information about ancient viruses, microbiota, and the animal's diet.

During the autopsy, conducted under sterile conditions, samples of the internal organs and the contents of the gastrointestinal tract were taken, reports IFL Science. By analyzing the bacteria in the wolf's intestines, scientists hope to learn more about its diet and health condition. "His stomach is perfectly preserved, without contamination. We have a chance to find out what he ate and what his prey consumed," said Albert Protopopov from the Academy of Sciences of Yakutia.

Potentially living bacteria

Scientists believe some microorganisms inside the wolf's body might have survived thousands of years in a state of hibernation. "Scientific cooperation with the NEFU Mammoth Museum allowed us to study Pleistocene-era bacteria. Living bacteria can survive in fossils for thousands of years," noted Professor Artemy Goncharov from the Northwestern State Medical University. Scientists hope that the discovered microorganisms may have applications in modern medicine.

This is not the only valuable specimen at the North-Eastern Federal University. Recently, they received another frozen wolf from the Nizhnekolymsky region in Yakutia, which will be studied after the current analyses are completed. The permafrost in this part of the world is ideal for preserving and storing prehistoric animals, such as the recently discovered bird from 49,000 years ago or the beautifully preserved puppy named "Dogor."

This last one was found in the Siberian permafrost in Sakha in 2018. The puppy was two months old when it died, and scientists now estimate its age to be 18,000 years. It is a unique specimen because, in its case, researchers are dealing with exceptionally well-preserved fur, head, and eyelashes. The animal even has preserved baby teeth. Experts are trying to determine whose ancestor "Dogor" was, as genetic tests show that it is neither a wolf nor a dog, which means it could be the elusive ancestor of both species.

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