Arctic rotifers lived and even started breeding after being frozen in permafrost for some 24,000 years. According to the scientists, this proved that multicellular organism could be frozen for long periods of time: “Our work provides the most convincing evidence today that Metazoan animals can sustain thousands of years of cryptobiosis – a state when metabolism virtually stops.” Researchers cannot say how exactly such organisms manage to survive for so long, and the research continues.

What else was found in permafrost and became a significant event for science and further research is detailed in the article by Scientific Russia.

Virus from Kolyma

In 2014, Russian scientists discovered a giant virus in Kolyma area. It is 30,000 years old and lives off amoebae.

According to scientists, the virus is no danger to people, though they cannot rule out the possibility of there being other viruses locked in permafrost that do not just parasitize unicellular organisms: “There is some probability that pathogenic microbes that infected ancient humans may come back to life and infect the modern humanity. Such morbigenous organisms may be regular bacteria (treatable by antibiotics) or bacteria resistant to medication and even dangerous viruses. If they became extinct long time ago, our immune systems would not be able to deal with them.”

Woolly mammoths

Remains of mammoths are one of the popular findings in permafrost. A frozen mammoth was first found in 1799: Evenks came across a mummy of a huge woolly elephant in the delta of the river Lena. The Evenks took the tusks and sold them to a merchant called Roman Boltunov. Later, the Imperial Academy of Sciences transferred the mammoth’s skeleton with bits of skin and two legs to the Kunstkamera museum.

Mummy of Yuka the baby mammoth

Mummy of Yuka the baby mammoth

Photo: TASS

The best preserved finding is the young female mammoth, named Yuka. She was found in 2010 in the Ust-Yansk District of Yakutia on the south coast of the Laptev Sea. Analysis found that the animal had died some 28,000 years ago, aged 6 to 9, as evidenced by the state of its molars.

What is unique about this finding is that even the mammoth’s soft tissues and reddish fur, typical for baby mammoths, were preserved. Scientists took out the mammoth's brain for further research, and specialists from Russia and Japan partially reconstructed its DNA. Scientists found structures with nucleoprotein components; myocyte nuclei were preserved the best. They were transplanted to mouse egg cells to see if they showed signs of biological activity.

Some of the cells did start forming new structures, making it clear that the cell nuclei were still active to some degree.

Ancient spotted cats

Pre-historical cave lion cub

Pre-historical cave lion cub

Photo: YASIA

Huge cave lions lived in Yakutia thousands of years ago; it weighed over 250 kilograms, standing up to two meters. Scientists drew these conclusions following the discovery of lion cubs’ remains on the bank of the river Uyandina and in the basin of the river Indigirka.

Those were just tiny cubs: the ones found on the bank of the Uyandina did not even have baby teeth. Scientists think that the lioness abandoned the cubs once they had been born. They have lain in the earth for 47,000 years, but the cold preserved even their internal organs. The lion cubs whose mummified bodies were found near the Indigirka were about two or three weeks old when they died: they were bigger by half and had thicker, spotted fur.


It was these findings that finally gave the scientists information on the color of the ancient animals. Previously, the spotted lions pictured on cave walls were believed to be liberties taken by the artist.

To clone a horse

In the spring of 2019, a Russian-Korean group of scientists announced their plans to clone a foal of the extinct Lena horse.

A body of a foal was discovered in Verkhoyansk District of Yakutia. Analysis found that the foal had lain in the earth for roughly 30,000 to 40,000 years. Scientists found out that the foal drowned in the mud, which then froze and turned into permafrost. Mud and silt were found in its stomach, while the organs and muscle tissue were well preserved and kept their natural reddish color. Samples of liquid blood were recovered from heart vessels.

This animal is said to be the best preserved specimen of an extinct animal.

A 5,000 year old man

In the fall of 1991, German tourists spotted an ice-bound mummy near the Austrian-Italian border. Subsequent analysis found that it was a man who lived more than 5,000 years ago. He was named Ötzi, after the Ötztal Alps where he was found. The discovery provided information on the lives and living arrangements of humans who lived 3,000 years before the Common Era, on climate changes and genes.

Mummy Ötzi

Mummy Ötzi


Ötzi’s copper ax

Ötzi’s copper ax

The mummified body of a man lay in ice for 5,000 years; the age and condition of the mummy and the surrounding ice told scientists about glacier movement. It turned out that the region Ötzi was found in was quite warm and fertile a thousand years before Ötzi’s death. The climate had changed noticeably by the time of Ötzi’s death. The body iced over very fast, which means a drastic temperature change. The cold facilitated development of giant glaciers, which only started receding in 1970. That is how the body was found.

Ötzi was armed with a flake-knife, a yew bow and a copper ax. Scientist think that he may have been killed in a battle between two communities – X-ray imaging found an arrowhead buried deep in his shoulder and traces of blood of four people apart from his own on his weapons, tools and clothing.

Scientists also drew a conclusion regarding the diet of humans of that time: Ötzi’s diet was 50% fat. In addition to venison and goat fat, Ötzi ate wheat and fern.


Photo in the main page:

Sources, RIA