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46,000-Year-Old Frozen Bird So Well Preserved Scientists Thought It ‘Died Yesterday’

by : Emma Rosemurgey on : 21 Feb 2020 15:44
46,000-Year-Old Frozen Bird So Well Preserved Scientists Thought It 'Died Yesterday'46,000-Year-Old Frozen Bird So Well Preserved Scientists Thought It 'Died Yesterday'Kennedy News and Media

A 46,000-year-old bird has been found so well preserved that fossil hunters initially thought it had ‘died yesterday’.

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The feathered creature, which is believed to be an ancestor of the modern horned lark, was discovered in a permafrost in a mine tunnel near the village of Belaya Gora in the north-east of Siberia.

Horned larks are known for taking to open habitats, as it would have been in Siberia during the last Ice Age.

46,000-Year-Old Frozen Bird So Well Preserved Scientists Thought It 'Died Yesterday'46,000-Year-Old Frozen Bird So Well Preserved Scientists Thought It 'Died Yesterday'DickDaniels/Wikimedia

According to researchers, the ‘icebird’ was female, and is now thought to be the first record of a frozen bird from this time to be found in the area.

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It’s highly likely the bird died a non-violent death, which allowed it to be perfectly frozen and prevented it from decomposing over the millennia, researchers say.

The icebird was handed to palaeontologist Love Dalén and his colleagues at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, so they could study the carcass after it was found seven metres underground by local fossil ivory hunters who were tunnelling into the permafrost.

Professor Dalén and his colleague Nicolas Dussex of the Centre for Palaeogenetics in Stockholm carefully analysed the remains back in their laboratory.

46,000-Year-Old Frozen Bird So Well Preserved Scientists Thought It 'Died Yesterday'46,000-Year-Old Frozen Bird So Well Preserved Scientists Thought It 'Died Yesterday'Kennedy News and Media

Researchers managed to work out the bird lived around 46,000 years ago by using radiocarbon dating, and also identified it as an ancestor of the modern horned lark.

They were originally baffled as to what kind of bird it was, initially thinking it was a thrush or a lark.

Fortunately, ornithologists on Twitter helped the researchers identify the creature, which was a relative of two different subspecies of horned lark found in Russia and Mongolia.

They believe the bird didn’t die a violent death because there’s no obvious signs on its carcass, explaining it likely froze very quickly.

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46,000-Year-Old Frozen Bird So Well Preserved Scientists Thought It 'Died Yesterday'46,000-Year-Old Frozen Bird So Well Preserved Scientists Thought It 'Died Yesterday'Kennedy News and Media

Professor Dalén said:

The study deals with radiocarbon dating and a genomic analysis on what is likely the first-ever discovered frozen bird from the last Ice Age.

No autopsy has been done but I think we can conclude its death likely wasn’t violent and it must have been frozen relatively quickly because otherwise it falls apart.

I’m pretty sure we also sexed it and it’s a female which is also a little fun fact but we’re not entirely sure what we’re going to do with that information.

We haven’t discussed giving it a formal name but within our circle we call it ‘Icebird’ because it was found frozen.

Incredible stuff.

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Emma Rosemurgey

Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist who started her career by producing The Royal Rosemurgey newspaper in 2004, which kept her family up to date with the goings on of her sleepy north east village. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining Tyla (formerly Pretty 52) in 2017, and progressing onto UNILAD in 2019.

Topics: Animals, Horned Lark, Ice Age, Kennedy News and Media, siberia