9,000-Year-Old Bison Mummy Reveals Secrets of Aging

Aging celebrities who spend thousands a year on plastic surgery might want to take a page from a more than 9,000-year-old bison mummy found preserved in the frozen Siberian tundra.

When they found it in 2011, local Yukagir tribesman marveled at its near immaculate state after its thousands of years buried in the icy Arctic soil. The indigenous tribes no doubt recognized the bison, scientific name Bison priscus, because the animal still roams the North American and northern European areas. Below you can see photos of the process scientists carried out to bring their discoveries to the public.

Despite the commonality of specimen, the extremely favorable conditions for this particular mummy have made it of fascinating use for scientists on the topic of preservation. Olga Potapova, the collections curator and manager at the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs in South Dakota, revealed that the organs of the animal are nearly perfectly intact, reported Live Science.

“Normally, what you find with the mummies of megafauna in North America or Siberia is partial carcasses. They’re partly eaten or destroyed because they’re lying in the permafrost for tens of thousands of years. But the mummy was preserved so well that it [earned] a record for the level of its preservation.”

While the bison mummy is missing its fat layer, many key parts of it are so complete that scientists were able to perform several painstaking dating procedures. Because of the stunning condition of the organs, the team will be able to identify what mitochondrial DNA was present in the bacteria tracts of the recovered stomach and intestines. From that, they will be able to estimate the general era in which the bison was frozen.

Some organs have, however, notably shriveled during the bison’s 9,000-year sleep. That, fortunately, hasn’t stopped the team from being able to extract valuable tissue samples, said Potapova. Among the most well-kelt pieces of the bison mummy are its blood vessels, digestive tract, and brain, which is the first to be recovered from a specimen of this particular species.

“Anatomy, physiology, genetics these give us very good information to construct the bison’s habitat, behavior and style of life. If we get all this information, we’ll be able to pin down the real reasons for the extinction of the species.”

Because of the low amount of fat around the animals organs, they believe that it died of starvation sometimes around the age of four. Further research based on the brain and other recovered tissues is still underway.

[Image via Dr. Gennady Boeskorov]