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A modern-day lemming. Credit: Jon Anders Wiken / Adobe Stock

Schoolgirl Finds 41,000-Year-Old Mummified Lemming in Permafrost

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By The Siberian Times reporter

Angelina Sadovnikova, then aged 11, came across a mummified Pleistocene rodent in a cavity left by woolly mammoth tusk diggers . The girl, now 14, was with her mother when she made the frozen find on the shore of the Tirekhtyakh River close to the Arctic Circle in the Yakutia region of Siberia, say scientists.

She took the preserved lemming to local historian and archaeologist Prokopyi Nogovitsyn, who in turn alerted biologist professors Nikita Solomonov and Vyacheslav Rozhnov.

The Ice Age lemming discovery was immediately moved to Moscow for detailed study. 

Frozen mummy, appearance from the dorsal, right lateral and ventral sides. Picture: Alexey Lopatin et al.

Frozen mummy, appearance from the dorsal, right lateral and ventral sides. Picture: Alexey Lopatin et al.

With an age of a little more than 41,000 years, it is the oldest lemming in the world, shows radiocarbon analysis 

At a length of 166mm - and slightly larger than modern day Siberian brown lemmings - the ancient herbivore is remarkably well preserved. 

Fur remains on the back, sides and abdomen, although not on the head.

On the dorsal side, the color of the fur is dark grey, on the sides and the ventral side it is greyish-yellow, and light, brighter on the back of the body. 

There is no longitudinal dark strip on the back. 

X-rays showed that all the bones, including the skull, were well preserved although the internal organs did not survive. 

The mummy’s thighs were found to be broken. 

Computer model of the anterior part of the skull. Picture: Alexey Lopatin et al.

Computer model of the anterior part of the skull. Picture: Alexey Lopatin et al.

A new study reports: ‘The finding of the Tirekhtyakh lemming is of great importance for understanding the evolution of this most important group of mammals in the Arctic communities.’

It was reported in Proceedings of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Doklady Akademii Nauk), volume 489, issue 1. The research was reported by N+1 science news website.

The mummy is between 41,305 and 41,885 years old, say scientists. 

Disclosure of the schoolgirl’s discovery of the oldest prehistoric lemming follow exciting scientific discoveries of mummified animals frozen in the permafrost as it gradually thaws due to climate change. 

Permafrost-preserved remains of woolly mammoths and rhinos have been found along with  cave lions wolves and other creatures.

Top image: A modern-day lemming. Credit: Jon Anders Wiken / Adobe Stock

This article, originally titled ‘ Schoolgirl finds the world’s oldest lemming preserved in permafrost and dating back 41,000 years was first published on The Siberian Times and has been republished with permission.

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