Stashed under frozen ground for pretty much 10,000 years, a very well-maintained bison mummy is finally ready to reveal its secrets.
Way back in 2011, people from the Yukagir tribe in northern Siberia discovered the remains of the steppe bison (Bison priscus), an extinct ancestor from the modern bison that also roam the flatlands of The United States and northern Europe. The perfectly maintained bison was moved to the Yakutian Academy of Sciences in Siberia, where scientists aims to perform an autopsy on the animal.
Olga Potapova, the collections curator and manager at the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs in South Dakota, who helped study the ancient mammal said, “Over the years, several other steppe bison mummies have been discovered but none was as well-maintained as the Yukagir bison mummy, that was discovered with its organs almost completely intact.”
Potapova told Live Science, “Usually, which you find with the mummies of megafauna in The United States or Siberia is partial carcasses. They are partially eaten or destroyed because they are lying within the permafrost from 1000’s of years. Though, the mummy was maintained very well it [achieved] an archive for the level of its upkeep.”
Potapova stated that the Yukagir bison died at the young age, at approximately four years old. The bison’s abdomen reveals that the animal died of starvation.
The researcher stated, “Apart from that missing layer of body fat, the bison was perfectly-maintained, with its heart, bloodstream ships and digestive tract found relatively intact, however a few of the organs had shrunk considerably.” The specimen is so well-maintained that we could get tissue samples from each organ, Potapova added.
Albert Protopopov, chief of the mammoth fauna research department at the Yakutian Academy of Sciences said, the bison mummy’s brain seemed to be perfectly-maintained and this for the first time ever that the steppe bison’s brain tissue has been discovered intact, Protopopov told Live Science via Potapova, who translated his statements.
The bison’s brain was taken off the animal’s skull for more study, and the preliminary histology – or study of the brain tissue – is still in progress, Protopopov added.
Natalia Serduk, a senior investigator in the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, who’s also active in the study said, “Additionally to removing the bison’s brain, the scientists also took off its internal organs, to review the tissue. The aim of the study would be to gather data relating to this ancient bison that may then be utilized to compare it to modern bison species.”
The scientists will also be particularly thinking about the ancient parasites that once plagued this mammal, Serduk told Live Science via Potapova. As the steppe bison’s DNA wasn’t maintained, the scientists took tissue from the animal’s lungs, liver and digestive tract to discover the mitochondrial DNA of parasites that once fed on the bison. Serduk said, “This mitochondrial DNA may then accustomed to determine more exactly how long ago the animal lived.”
Potapova stated, “Anatomy, physiology, genetics – these provide us with excellent information to create the bison’s habitat, behavior and elegance of existence. When we get all of this information, we’ll have the ability to pin down the actual causes of the extinction of the species.”
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Berlin and will be published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology soon.