When paleontologists work with incomplete or fractured fossils, they sometimes have to piece together the way a creature might have actually looked. Other times, though, they’re lucky enough to find a specimen that takes away most of the guesswork.
These remains of ancient animals are so well-preserved, it’s almost like going through a time machine…
1. In 2010, in a remote part of Siberia, researchers found a woolly mammoth so well-preserved that they considered trying to clone it. It was between six and nine years old when it died 39,000 years ago, and because it appears to have been cut open, it’s actually the first specimen that confirms interaction between mammoths and humans.
Wikimedia Commons / Nandaro
2. Trilobites are the most successful animals of all time, having thrived for about 300 million years before they went extinct. Well-preserved fossils of the marine arthropods have been found on every continent, some still containing the remains of soft tissue like the gills and antennae.
3. The chasmosaurus was a horned dinosaur related to the more well-known triceratops, and it lived about 75 million years ago. Until the remains of this baby chasmosaurus were found in Canada in 2015, scientists had never come across a fossil of the species so fully intact, with even its skin leaving a detailed impression in the surrounding rock.
Wikimedia Commons / Ceasol
4. The woolly rhino is to today’s rhinoceros what the woolly mammoth is to modern elephants: a furry ice-age ancestor. However, woolly rhinos were never as populous as mammoths, so we know less about them. This specimen, nicknamed Sasha, was found in the Yakutia region of Siberia and is the only complete baby woolly rhino ever found.
Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Sakha
5. Two cave lion cubs nicknamed Dina and Uyan were about a week old when they died in a landslide 10,000 years ago. A lack of air exposure and cold Siberian temperatures kept their bodies intact until they were uncovered last year. Prior to the cubs’ discovery, our knowledge of cave lions was based solely on stray bones and fossilized paw tracks.
Academy of Sciences of Yakutia
6. Back in 2000, researchers in Germany found the remains of a prehistoric ancestor of today’s horses. The most remarkable part of the discovery was that the horse was pregnant at the time of its death 48 million years ago, and its fetus was very well-preserved. Scientists were able to study the horse’s placenta, internal organs, and even stomach contents.
Senckenberg Research Institute Frankfurt / Sven Tranker
7. In yet another Siberian find, a mummified ancestor of the bison was found almost completely intact back in 2011. It’s the only specimen of its kind, and its well-preserved internal organs and mappable DNA were a boon for scientists studying the 10,000-year-old creature and its descendants.
Dr. Gennady Boeskorov
8. The 12,400-year-old Tumat dog was discovered by accident in Siberia back in 2010, though an in-depth necropsy by experts didn’t occur until 2015. Despite the wait, it’s still the best-preserved ancient canine scientists have seen yet, and they’ve discussed cloning the animal, which they believe was likely a domesticated pet.
9. The dunkleosteus was a gigantic, densely armored fish that lived about 380 million years ago in shallow seas. They were nine meters long, likely weighed about four tons, and were possibly the largest vertebrates of their era. Well-preserved remains of the fish have been found worldwide, likely protected because of their armored exterior.
10. The moa were massive flightless and wingless birds native to New Zealand that the first Maori settlers hunted to extinction around 500 years ago. While researchers had come across many moa bones, they were thrilled to find this mummified claw that had the bird’s skin and muscles still intact.
Wikimedia Commons / Ryan Baumann
These are pretty cool from a scientific perspective, but a little bit freaky at the same time. Is it just us, or is Siberia overflowing with frozen prehistoric animals?
Share these incredible discoveries with your friends below!