Scientists studying the remarkably well-preserved remains of an Ice Age bird have identified the specimen as a horned lark.
Buried and frozen in permafrost near the village of Belaya Gora in north-eastern Siberia, the bird was discovered by local fossil ivory hunters, who passed it on to a team of experts, including Nicolas Dussex and Love Dalén from the Swedish Museum of Natural History, for testing.
Radiocarbon dating revealed the bird lived around 46,000 years ago, and genetic analysis identified it as a horned lark (Eremophila alpestris), according to a paper published Friday in the journal Communications Biology.
The preservation of the bird is explained in large part by the cold of the permafrost, explained Dussex, but this specimen is in extraordinarily good condition.
“The fact that such a small and fragile specimen was near intact also suggests that dirt/mud must have been deposited gradually, or at least that the ground was relatively stable so that the bird’s carcass was preserved in a state very close to its time of death,” said Dussex.
Scientists working in the area have also found carcasses and body parts from other animals such as wolves, mammoths, and wooly rhinos.
Dussex described such findings as “priceless” as they allow researchers to retrieve DNA and sometimes RNA, a nucleic acid present in all living cells.
The CNN Wire contributed to this report.