A nearly 3,500-year-old brown bear that was nearly perfectly preserved in Siberian permafrost is now being dissected by Russian researchers.
The female bear has undergone a necropsy after it was discovered by reindeer herders on Bolshoy Lyakhovsky Island in the Arctic in 2020.
It was found just east of the Bolshoy Etherican River and, therefore, has been named the Etherican brown bear.
The extreme temperatures in the area helped to preserve the bear’s soft tissue for 3,460 years, as well as the remains of its final meals.
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Scientists conduct an autopsy of a fossil brown bear with the geological age of 3,460 years, found in the permafrost of northern Yakutia by reindeer herders in 2020, in Yakutsk, Russia February 21, 2023. (REUTERS/Michil Yakovlev)
The 5.09-foot tall and almost 172-pound bear had ingested birds and plants.
The team cut through the bear’s hide – with the tissue and fat visible – and scientists examined its brain and internal organs. They used a vacuum to suck up the skull bone dust.
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A woman looks at a diorama at the Yakutsk State Museum of History and Culture in Yakutsk, Russia on July 2, 2019. Melting permafrost is altering Siberia’s landscape, including the region’s largest city, Yakutsk, and altering its economy. ((Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images))
Maxim Cheprasov, laboratory chief at the Lazarev Mammoth Museum Laboratory at the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, eastern Siberia, said that the bear was probably aged about two to three years and that it had died from an injury to its spinal column.
A brown bear (Ursus arctos beringianus) walks on the Kamchatka peninsula ((Photo by: Valerio Ferraro/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images))
It remains unclear how the bear came to be on the island, which is divided from the mainland. Melting permafrost has been altering Siberia’s landscape.
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“Genetic analysis has shown that the bear does not differ in mitochondrial DNA from the modern bear from the north-east of Russia – Yakutia and Chukotka,” Cheprasov told Reuters, noting the find is “absolutely unique.”
Reuters contributed to this report.