Tech UPTechnology46,000-year-old frozen bird found in Siberia

46,000-year-old frozen bird found in Siberia

A group of fossil ivory hunters found in the permafrost near the town of Belaya Gora, in northeastern Siberia, a really well-preserved carcass of a bird, and their first thought was that it had been dead for a day or so. Turns out it was about 46,000 years old. From the middle of the last Ice Age.

Scientists at the Swedish Museum of Natural History determined that the Ice Age specimen was an ancestor of the horned lark, according to an article recently published in the journal Communications Biology .

Horned larks are usually in open habitats, just as you would have enjoyed in Siberia during this time in history. According to experts, this “ice bird” was female and likely died nonviolently before becoming frozen, a fate that kept it from decomposing for millennia.

It is the first bird obtained from the permafrost deposits of the Ice Age

In recent years, the permafrost areas of the Arctic have revealed a large number of frozen animal carcasses from the last Ice Age, including mammoths, woolly rhinos, horses or bison, but this is the first time a bird has been found. These remains are of great interest to paleontology, as they allow a better understanding of the impact of climate change on species, populations and communities.

Examining the specimen

The scientists used 50 mg of the bird’s tissue for DNA extraction and genome sequencing. They rebuilt their mitogenome and extracted a partial COI gene, which is used for species identification. They searched GenBank’s bird genetic databases for this gene and found a 100% identity match with the horned lark ( Eremophila alpestris) , a species of lark in the Alaudidae family found throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

“Not only can we identify the bird as a horned lark, but genetic analysis also suggests that the bird belonged to a population that was a joint ancestor of two subspecies of horned larks that live today, one in Siberia and one in the steppe. in Mongolia “, clarifies Nicholas Dussex of the University of Stockholm and co-author of the work.


During the last Ice Age, the gigantic steppe spread across northern Europe and Asia. The steppe was home to currently extinct species such as the woolly mammoth and the woolly rhinoceros. One theory states that the gigantic steppe was divided into the biotopes we know today: tundra in the north, taiga in the middle, and steppe in the south.

“Our results support this theory, as the diversification of the horned lark into these subspecies appears to have occurred at the same time that the gigantic steppe disappeared ,” says Love Dalén, professor at the Swedish Museum of Natural History and research leader at the Center for Paleogenetics.

Referencia: Nicolas Dussex, David W. G. Stanton, Hanna Sigeman, Per G. P. Ericson, Jacquelyn Gill, Daniel C. Fisher, Albert V. Protopopov, Victoria L. Herridge, Valery Plotnikov, Bengt Hansson, Love Dalén. Biomolecular analyses reveal the age, sex and species identity of a near-intact Pleistocene bird carcass. Communications Biology, 2020; 3 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s42003-020-0806-7

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