Extinct 40,000-Year-Old Baby Horse Dug up in Siberia

8_27_Horse Yakutia
A man rides a horse in the village of 1-Khomustakh, some 46 miles east from the Siberian city of Yakutsk in the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic, on February 17, 2012. A recently discovered prehistoric horse in Siberia is "genetically different" from horses roaming the region today, scientists said. Viktor Everstov/Reuters

Scientists have unearthed what is thought to be the oldest example of a nearly perfectly preserved prehistoric foal in the permafrost of Siberia.

The baby horse is known as a Lena Horse, or Equus lenensis in Latin, The Siberian Times reported. These extinct creatures used to roam the region some 30,000 to 40,000 years ago.

The foal was dug up mid-August in the Batagaika crater—a tadpole-shaped depression known as the "mouth of hell" and the "doorway to the underworld." Local residents first spotted the body, The Independent reported.

The horse's dark coat, mane and tail survived, as well as its internal organs, during its long spell in the icy sarcophagus.

"The foal has no damage to its carcass," Semyon Grigoryev, the head of nearby Yakutsk's Mammoth Museum, told the Times. "Even its hair [is] preserved, which is incredibly rare for such ancient finds."

The horse was only 2 or 3 months old when it died, Grigoryev explained. It measures about 39 inches tall at the shoulder. He said the rare find is "genetically different" from the horses found in the region today.

8_27_Horse Yakutia
A man rides a horse in the village of 1-Khomustakh, some 46 miles east from the Siberian city of Yakutsk in the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic, on February 17, 2012. A recently discovered prehistoric horse in Siberia is "genetically different" from horses roaming the region today, scientists said. Viktor Everstov/Reuters

Although they don't know exactly what happened to the young creature, scientists think it may have died during its sleep. "Experts that took part in the expedition came up with a version that the foal could have drowned after getting into some kind of a natural trap," Grigory Savvinov, deputy head of the North-Eastern Federal University, told the Times. An autopsy may reveal further clues to the fate of the foal, which has no obvious wounds.

Scientists will test the horse's hair, stomach contents and the soil found nearby to understand more about the animal's short life. "We obtained samples of soil layers where it was preserved, which means we will be able to restore a picture of the foal's environment," Grigoryev told the Times. Although the team thinks it's around 40,000 years old, soil tests should date the foal more accurately.

Researchers also found the skeleton of a woolly mammoth in their search of the permafrost, according to LiveScience. The mammoth was also well preserved in the frozen mausoleum.

Grigoryev did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Extinct 40,000-Year-Old Baby Horse Dug up in Siberia | Tech & Science
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