Over the years, archaeologists have uncovered many remarkable ancient specimens, including body parts and carcasses of animals such as mammoths, wooly rhinos, and wolves from the Siberian permafrost.
This time, however, they found the mummified remains of a whole bird — with its talons and feathers unscathed forty-six thousand (46,000) years after her death.
An intact 46,000-year-old bird was found for the first time in the Siberian permafrost.
The prehistoric 46,000-year-old bird was identified by scientists studying the remarkably nearly-intact carcasses of the Ice Age bird as a horned lark (Eremophila alpestris), and scientists believe it could be a predecessor to two subspecies alive today; one in northern Russia and the other on the Mongolian steppe.
Eremophila alpestris is popularly known in Europe as the shore lark, is a songbird that is small in size and breeds across the northern hemisphere.
It has 42 officially identified subspecies that are grouped into six different clades. Each of these clades could as well be reclassification into distinct species clusters.
This discovery is the first of its kind; no nearly-intact bird specimen had ever been dug up in the tundra.
Love Dalén from the Swedish Museum of Natural History, who is an expert in evolutionary genetics and was part of the research team that examined the ancient bird, believe that climatic changes that led to the end of the last Ice Age led to the formation of new subspecies of this bird. He said:
“This finding implies that the climatic changes that took place at the end of the last Ice Age led to the formation of new subspecies,”
The bird was found frozen and buried 23 feet below ground in permafrost in North-Eastern Siberia, near the village of Belaya Gora.
The prehistoric 46,000-year-old bird was discovered by local fossil ivory hunters, who then gave this specimen to a team of experts, including Love Dalén and Nicolas Dussex, for further analysis.
Genome Maps Of Historic DNA Might Also Shed Light On Evolution Of Subspecies
To understand how this Ice Age bird is related to present-day horned larks, the researchers from the Center for Palaeogenetics extracted ancient DNA from the specimen and analyzed it.