Scientists checking 44,000-year-old frozen wolf for ancient viruses

A 44,000-year-old mummified wolf has been discovered in the permafrost of Siberia by local residents. The wolf, which is exceptionally well-preserved with teeth, fur, and some organs intact, is currently being studied by researchers at North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, Russia. The wolf is believed to belong to an extinct species and may have been larger than modern wolves.

Scientists are investigating the wolf’s stomach to learn more about its last meal and the ancient microbes that may be present. The study of the wolf’s genome will help reveal its place in the canine family tree, and the ancient microbes could potentially lead to the development of future medicines. The researchers are also examining other remains, including fossil hares, a horse, and a bear, as part of a larger collaboration to study ancient animals.

The discovery of the mummified wolf is part of a larger issue, as rising global temperatures are causing permafrost to thaw, re-emerging ancient creatures and potentially releasing pathogens that could pose a risk to human health. In 2016, an outbreak of anthrax was caused by the thawing of a once-frozen reindeer carcass in Siberia. Researchers are concerned that other pathogens may be present in the tundra, and there is a risk that ancient viruses or bacteria in the guts of the Yakutia wolf could provide insights into the microbes hiding inside permafrost creatures. In 2022, a baby mammoth was discovered in the Yukon, providing another example of the ancient creatures that are re-emerging as permafrost thaws.

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