The well-preserved remains of an extinct bird that was found in the permafrost of Siberia have been identified as a horned lark that lived 46,000 years ago. The ancient bird was found by local fossil ivory hunters near the village of Belaya Gora in north-eastern Siberia. The bird was given to scientists from Stockholm University and the Swedish Museum of Natural History for analysis.
The findings of the researchers were published in the journal Communications Biology.
Radiocarbon dating revealed that the female horned lark flew the Earth toward the end of the last Ice Age or late Pleistocene. Further tests showed the extinct bird might have been an ancestor to a species of a lark that lives in the steppes of Mongolia and another that lives in northern Russia.
Nicolas Dussex, a researcher at the Department of Zoology at Stockholm University, and Love Dalén from the Swedish Museum of Natural History said the bird remains were well-preserved as to be almost entirely complete. In fact, they are working to sequence the entire genome of the black-feathered bird to determine its relationship and evolution with modern larks.
“The bird’s carcass was preserved in a state very close to its time of death,” Dussex said, and this will “allow for studies of morphological traits, as well as the ecology and evolution of a range of extinct and extant animal species.”
The ancient bird was found close to a location where a frozen puppy which lived 18,000 years ago was found. Scientists are analyzing RNA and DNA examinations to determine if the animal remains were actually a dog or a wolf. A cave lion cub that lived 50,000 years ago is also being studied for clues into the past, and so is the prehistoric specimen of a woolly mammoth that lived thousands of years ago.
Scientists from the Centre for Palaeogenetics of Stockholm University are helping with the research.