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Schoolgirl finds the world’s oldest lemming preserved in permafrost and dating back 41,000 years

By The Siberian Times reporter
28 December 2019

Angelina Sadovnikova, then 11, came across the mummified Pleistocene rodent in a cavity left by woolly mammoth tusk diggers.

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

The girl, now 14, was with her mother when she made the frozen find on the shore of 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.

Angelina is shown in the picture with the two academicians. 

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

Angelina with professors

Angelina Sadovnikova (second from the left) with professors Nikita Solomonov (first from the left) and Vyacheslav Rozhnov (first from the right). Picture: Prokopyi Nogovitsyn

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 colour 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. 

Radiography

Radiography from the dorsal and right lateral sides. Picture: Alexey Lopatin et al.

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 skull

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. 

Map

The mummy was found on the shore of Tirekhtyakh River close to the Arctic Circle in the Yakutia region of Siberia. Picture: The Siberian Times

Disclosure of the schoolgirl’s discovery of the oldest prehistoric lemming follow exciting scientists 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.

 
The scientific team that studied the mummified lemming were

Academician, Professor Alexey Lopatin, head of the Paleontological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow), Dr Nikita Solomonov, Corresponding member to Russian Academy of Sciences  (Yakutsk), Dr Natalya Serdyuk,  Paleontological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow),  Dr Evgeny Maschenko (Paleontological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow), Professor Dmitry Mukha (Vavilov Institute of General Genetics (Moscow), and Professor Alexander Agadjanyan, Paleontological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow)

Modern Siberian lemming pictured in Taimyr peninsula. Picture: Olga Alexandrova

Siberian lemming

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