In August of 2018, the remains of a prehistoric foal, only a few weeks old when it died, was found in such good shape it was still covered in hair. The incredible find was unearthed in the permafrost of Siberia’s Yakutsk region. The 42,000-year-old horse is thought to belong to the Lenskaya breed—an extinct animal, but one that maybe won’t be extinct forever. Scientists have been able to collect liquid blood samples from the foal and they plan on using them to try and clone it.
The Siberian Times (in a story we came across at Gizmodo) reports the foal was in excellent condition thanks to its deep burial in the Siberian permafrost, where it died without injury, likely after getting stuck in the mud. That’s how its internal organs and body are still in excellent shape. Semyon Grigoryev, the head of the Mammoth Museum in Yakutsk who helped lead the autopsy, calls it “the best preserved Ice Age animal ever found in the world.”
A partnership between scientists at North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk and the South Korean Sooam Biotech Research Foundation are now planning on using the extracted blood, which was drawn from the horse’s heart vessels, to clone it. While they still need to successfully extract cells from the blood, they are so sure they will they are already searching for a surrogate horse mother to carry the clone embryo. The Siberian permafrost continues to be one of the most exciting places in the world for incredible discoveries of ancient animals. In March of 2019, we told you about how the same team of researchers briefly reactivated the cells of a 28,000-year-old woolly mammoth that was in remarkable condition thanks to its icy tomb in the same frozen land. If they can clone this foal, it could help them to clone a wooly mammoth too.
Of course, of course, there’s still work to make this extinct horse a regular horse, but this is already a bloody good story.
Images: NBC, Semyon Grigoryev/NEFU