A 40,000-year-old severed wolf head was discovered in Siberia by locals that were preserved by permafrost. While looking for a mammoth, the locals came upon the remains on the banks of the Tirekhtyakh river in Yakutia.
After finding the head, the remains were taken to the mammoth studies department at the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Sakha. The head is not only believed to be around 40,000 years old, it still has its fur, and fangs intact. According to the Siberian Times, the wolf is believed to have been around 2-4 years old when it died.
“‘This is a unique discovery of the first-ever remains of a fully grown Pleistocene wolf with its tissue preserved,” Albert Protopopov, director of the mammoth studies department at the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Sakha told the Times. “We will be comparing it to modern-day wolves to understand how the species has evolved and to reconstruct its appearance.”
Scientists are now working to come up with a digital model of the brain and the skull’s interior to study further. Another team in Stockholm is further analyzing the wolf’s DNA.
An ancient cave lion cub, an extinct species preserved in Yakutia’s vast areas of permafrost is also being investigated. As the planet begins to warm, the area will most likely yield even more remains. ‘The number of discoveries is growing because of the thaw of the permafrost,’ Protopopov explained.
While it isn’t uncommon for wolf skulls to be discovered, what makes this one unique is that its soft tissues and brain were almost perfectly preserved. By comparing them to the animals of today, scientists are better able to understand evolution and how species have changed over time.