It was frozen under the Siberian tundra for over 9,000 years, so it's not exactly a thing of beauty. However, the Yukagir bison, named after the northern Siberian tribe who first discovered it in 2010, is still considered exquisite because of its completeness.
Now, researchers are looking into bringing the Yukagir bison to the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, South Dakota to let the public see one of the best paleontological finds around.
A team of scientists worked on the Yukagir bison after it was discovered, two of which have ties to the Mammoth Site.
Larry Agenbroad and Olga Potapova spent most of the last three years aiding Russian scientists in exploring the bison remains, with Agenbroad specifically tasked with ensuring that the discovery was indeed of a bison.
The results of the team's work was presented in an annual conference in Berlin in November for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, just one out of nine reports chosen from 900 submissions.
Agenbroad died before the conference was held, but Potapova was able to join their Russian colleagues. She had previously studied Steppe bison before and had been studying extinct and modern mammals at the Mammoth Site since 2001.
Research on the Yukagir bison is ongoing and will be featured next year in the Quaternary International, a natural and physical sciences journal.
At the time of its death, the Yukagir bison was about four years old yet it was roughly the same size as a six-year-old American bison. It was definitely big for its age but it still had room to grow had it not succumbed to starvation.
Researchers believe the creature died of hunger because it didn't have fat reserves around its neck and abdominal area. It also didn't have injuries, so death in the hands of predators was also ruled out.
As for what allowed the Yukagir bison's remains to be surprisingly complete after all this time, Potapova said it may have to do with the partial thawing that happens every year in the tundra. It is possible that shortly after the bison's death it was quickly submerged in water, covering up the remains before predators could feast on it. Silt then enveloped the carcass over time, helping perfectly preserve even the bison's innards.
The Mammoth Site is interested in having the Yukagir bison over as part of an existing exhibit on bison and other Siberian discoveries.