Another attempt to extract intact DNA from the well-preserved remains of a prehistoric animal failed. Swedish paleontologists, who studied the genome of an 18,000-year-old puppy, could not even determine whether it was a dog or a wolf. Samples of liquid blood taken from the heart of a horse that was in permafrost for 42 thousand years are next for research. Also, specialists have nucleus-like structures of Yuka the woolly mammoth mummy. RIA Novosti figures out what other prehistoric creatures found in Yakutia can provide material sufficient for DNA extraction.

The reawaken cells of a mammoth

The first frozen mammoth was discovered in Yakutia in 1799. The commune of Evenks came across a huge woolly elephant mummy entombed in ground in the delta of the Lena river. By 1803, the corpse completely defrosted out of the cliff, and the Evenks cut down the tusks and sold them to the Yakut merchant Roman Boltunov for 50 rubles. Mikhail Adams, an associate professor in zoology at the Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences, found out about the discovery from the merchant and transported the preserved remains (by that time only a skeleton with large pieces of skin, two legs and an eye remained of the mammoth) to the Kunstkamera in St. Petersburg.

There were several dozen similar discoveries in this period worldwide. The 28,000-years-old Mammuthus primigenius young female mummy preserved the best. It was discovered on the southern coast of the Laptev sea in the Ust-Yansk district of Yakutia in 2011 and named Yuka. The animal was 165 centimeters tall and its trunk-to-tail length was a little more than 2 meters. It had bright red fur, and its skin, softer tissues, and even the brain were almost untouched by rot.


Yuka mammoth mummy, found in Ust-Yansk ulus of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) on the shore of the Laptev sea

Later, scientists found nucleus-like structures in Yuka’s marrow and softer tissues. The analysis revealed that nuclei of muscle cells preserved the best. The researchers transplanted them into mouse egg cells, and 5 of them showed “signs of biological activity.” In other words, half-mouse and half-mammoth cells had the reactions that usually occur before cell division. However, the cells did not divide.

The researchers hope to repeat the experiment if they can find better-quality cell nuclei.

Cave lions had spots

Panthera leo spelaea, huge cave lions, lived on the territory of Yakutia tens of thousands of years ago. They weighed about 260 kilograms and reached 2 meters in length. Today, their appearance can be speculated by four perfectly preserved bodies of their cubs. The first two, the remains of a male and female, were found on the bank of the Uyandina river in 2015. The third was found in the basin of the Indigirka in September 2017. The fourth one was dug up near the site in 2018.

In all cases, we are talking about very small cubs. The lion cubs from the banks of Uyandina were only a few days old, as they had not yet formed baby teeth. The animals have been in permafrost for 47,000 years, but even their internal organs have been preserved. However, scientists have not identified any nutrients in their bodies, mother's milk in particular. This means that the lioness most likely abandoned the cubs immediately after their birth.


Prehistoric cave lion cub found in Yakutia in 2018

43,000-year-old and 28,000-year-old Indigirka mummies died at the age of 2 or 3 weeks. This is evidenced by not only their size (they are one and a half times larger than Uyandina ones), but also more thick spotted fur. By the way, these discoveries put an end to the debate about the color of Panthera leo spelaea. Previously, it was believed that the prehistoric painter took artistic liberty in the depiction of spotted lions in Chauvet Cave in France. Now, it is clear that the drawing was correct. The lion cub found in 2017 has a gray coat interspersed with denser dark hairs, and it also has many black spots on its head.

Blood in the heart

In 2018, a full carcass of a 42,000-year-old Lena horse that disappeared many centuries ago was dug up in Verkhoyansk district of Yakutia. According to researchers, the foal lived approximately two weeks. They found a fair amount of mud and silt it swallowed before he died in his stomach. The mixture froze quickly, so the body preserved well.

The internal organs were hardly rotten, the softer tissues were reddish, and there was black hair on its head, legs, and part of the torso.


NEFU scientists have excavated the corpse of a foal fossil horse. August 11, 2018

What’s fascinating is that scientists were able to extract samples of liquid blood from its heart vessels. They hope to extract viable cells that could be used to decode the genome and clone the extinct species.

A wolf or a dog

Three mummies of prehistoric dogs were found in the Yakut permafrost. Two of them were discovered on the bank of the Salakh river near the village of Tumat in 2011 and 2015. These puppies were of the same brood. They lived no more than three months and most likely died in a landslide. The animals have been in the permafrost for 12,500 years and are perfectly preserved. Scientists even managed to extract one almost intact brain. MRI allowed them to see the intermediate brain, cerebellum and pituitary gland.


Puppy named Dogor discovered in the Aby district of Yakutia. Researchers have not been able to determine whether it was a dog or a wolf

In 2018 locals found a chunk of the body of an 18,000-year-old puppy in the Aby district of Yakutia. Not only did it still have fur and whiskers, but it even had eyelashes. The approximate age at the time of death is less than 2 months.

The researchers were not able to determine whether the prehistoric puppy was a wolf or a dog by its appearance. The initial genome study, conducted by scientists at the Swedish center for paleontology, also did not answer this question.

RIA Novosti