Frozen bird that so well preserved fossil hunters thought it “died yesterday” turns out to be 46,000-year-old horned lark
- A bird found in Siberia is the first known example of an ice age bird
- The bird was so well-preserved fossil hunters thought it was a modern animal
- Researchers studying the animal believe that this may be the first registered specimen of a frozen bird from 46,000 years ago
A frozen bird found in Siberia that was mistaken for an animal that “died yesterday” has been revealed as a horned lark of 46,000 years old.
This ‘kingfisher’ was so well preserved that fossil hunters confused it with a modern animal that died yesterday.
But researchers studying the animal believe that this may be the first recorded example of a frozen bird of this era.
In the photo: the 46,000-year-old ‘kingfisher’ that has been so well preserved that fossil hunters saw it as an unfortunate creature that ‘died yesterday’ – only to realize that they had found the first ice age bird ever
Nicolas Dussex, lead author of the scientific article about the bird, said: “It feels crazy to work on the first ever discovered frozen bird from the last ice age”
Professor Love Dalén, paleontologist at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, was mined on expedition with local fossil ivory hunters in an ice tunnel in Siberia when they discovered the prehistoric creature.
The fossil hunters revealed that they found it in permafrost, indicating that it was actually old.
Professor Dalen and his colleague Nicolas Dussex then analyzed the remains in their laboratory.
Radiocarbon dating revealed that the bird lived about 46,000 years ago and further tests identified it as a horned lark (Eremophila alpestris).
The find was published today in the scientific journal Communicators Biology.
Professor Dalen believes the animal is the oldest fully mummified specimen in the area.
He speculates that the animal did not die a violent death because there are no clear signs on its remains, and says it probably froze very quickly.
Professor Dalen says: ‘The study is about carbon dating and a genomic analysis of what is probably the first ever discovered frozen bird from the last ice age.
“No autopsy has been done, but I think we can conclude that death was probably not violent and that it must have frozen relatively quickly because otherwise it would fall apart.
“I’m pretty sure we had sex too, and it’s a woman, which is a bit of a fun fact, but we’re not entirely sure what we’re going to do with that information.”
“We didn’t talk about giving it a formal name, but within our circle we call it” Icebird “because it was found frozen.”
Dr. Dussex adds: “It feels crazy to work on the very first discovered frozen bird from the last ice age.”
Professor Dalen added: ‘It feels a bit surreal. You get this kind of conflict in your head because it really feels like it just died, but it’s probably that old. It is almost as if time has stopped.
“[I was] with that little bird in my hand and the feeling that it seems like he died yesterday but perhaps died tens of thousands of years ago.
“It’s a small animal that would have flown around and lived in that area with cave lions and mammoths and so on – it’s a pretty special feeling.
“To be honest, I had no idea what it was because I’m not that good at birds. To me it could have been a small thrush or a kind of lark or something. “
The remains of the frozen animal as found in a Siberian tunnel. it was so well preserved, the father of the original thought that it must have flown into the tunnel last winter and died when it was lost
Buried and frozen in permafrost near the village of Belaya Gora in northeastern Siberia, the bird was discovered by local fossil ivory hunters
But help from ornithologists via Twitter helped identify the bird and is revealed in the newspaper as an ancestor of two different subspecies of horned lark in Russia and Mongolia.
Dalen says: ‘We broadcast a tweet about it and ornithologists and museum curators around the world speculated about what it was.
“Ultimately, the consensus among the experts was that it was a thrush or a lark. Some people mentioned it and some people didn’t. ”