Liquid blood and urine have been extracted from the frozen carcass of a foal that died during the Ice Age about 42,000 years ago in Siberia’s Verkhoyansk region, according to a report.
Russian researchers performed an autopsy and removed the body fluids from the extinct young horse, which they hope to clone, Semyon Grigoriev, head of the Mammoth Museum at Northeastern Federal University in Yakutsk, told CNN.
Mammoth tusk hunters found the foal in the permafrost of the massive Batagaika crater in the summer of 2018, on a day when the temperature had plummeted to minus-90 degrees Fahrenheit.
The ancient animal appeared to have been just two weeks old when it died, likely by drowning, Grigoriev said.
“An autopsy showed the foal carcass was extremely well-preserved, the body even without deformation,” he added. “The hair cover also preserved most parts of the carcass, especially at the head and legs.”
The preservation of the fur was extremely rare, Grigoriev said.
“Now we can say what color was the wool of the extinct horses of the Pleistocene era, he said.
But the discovery of liquid blood and urine is even rarer.
Grigoriev said he knew of only one other case where liquid blood was found in an animal from the Pleistocene epoch, which lasted from around 2.6 million years ago to about 11,700 years ago.
His team made that discovery in 2013 in the frozen carcass of an adult mammoth at Little Lyakhovsky Island off the northeast coast of Russia.
“As a rule, the blood coagulates or even turns to powder in the fossil remains of animals of the ice age, even if the carcass is preserved seems to be well,” Grigoriev said.
“This is due to mummification when moisture and other biological fluids gradually evaporate over thousands of years, even if the remains are in the permafrost. The remains are preserved best if they are in the ice, as it was with our mammoth.”
Northeastern Federal University specialists were working with scientists from the South Korean Sooam Biotech Research Foundation to cultivate the foal’s cells for cloning, though he was pessimistic about their chances.
Sooam leader Hwang Woo-suk claimed in 2004 that he had successfully cloned human embryonic stem cells before acknowledging that he had faked the findings.
“I think that even the unique preservation [of] blood is absolutely hopeless for cloning purposes since the main blood cells — the red blood cells or erythrocytes — do not have nuclei with DNA,” Grigoriev said.
“We [are] trying to find intact cells in muscle tissue and internal organs that are also very well-preserved.”
The foal will be exhibited in Japan next year as part of The Mammoth exhibit.