The severed head of a wolf that may have died more than 30,000 years ago has been unearthed in permafrost in eastern Siberia.
The wolf, whose fur and fangs are still intact, was between 2 and 4 years old when it died, The Siberian Times reported Friday.
“‘This is a unique discovery of the first ever remains of a fully grown Pleistocene wolf with its tissue preserved,” Albert Protopopov, director of the mammoth studies department at the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Sakha told the Times. “We will be comparing it to modern-day wolves to understand how the species has evolved and to reconstruct its appearance.”
The Pleistocene wolf’s head measured more than 15 inches long, per the Times, larger than that of a modern wolf’s head, which measures between 9 and 11 inches. Protopopov estimated the specimen is more than 40,000 years old, but two paleontologists involved in the project, Love Dalén from the Swedish Museum of Natural History and Valeri Plotniknov from the Yakutia Academy of Sciences, told Gizmodo that the head was closer to 30,000 years old.
The team from Sweden will study the predator’s DNA, and researchers are building a digital model of the wolf’s brain and the interior of its skull, Protopopov told CNN.
He told the outlet that as temperatures rise around the globe, more remains will likely be uncovered in the region where the head was discovered.
“The number of discoveries is growing because of the thaw of the permafrost,” he told CNN.
The specimen was discovered alongside a well-preserved cave lion cub which was the same size, the Times reported. Researchers believe the cub, nicknamed Spartak, died shortly after birth.
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