Nature is badass, in case you didn’t know. And how do I know? Well, just look at these fearsome, impressive animals that scientists found frozen deep in ancient ice!
I mean, just look at that!
I even added a huge red arrow in case you missed it. Do you know the implications of finding an ancient organism preserved in ice? Well… Let me just say that it’s basically a sort of time-travel. Whatever lived, and died (or kept living in the ice!) millions of years ago, will find itself in the future, in our time.
It can help us learn a lot about our past, but take heed – our past can also catch us unawares and annihilate us! Scientists have frequently warned that we might, one fine day, dig out a deadly ancient bacteria we might have no defenses against…
But, until that day arrives, let’s think about something else! More pleasant, icy things! (Thanks, Tapoos!) Like these:
6. The Glorious Yuka Mammoth
Probably everyone knows about mammoths, and how they are some of the most recently extinct mammals. (By recent, here, I mean the last ice age). And this is where the Yuka Mammoth comes in the picture – it’s lived around 39,000 years ago which is really recent!
But the most important part is that its brain is almost completely intact, which is not the case with 99,99% of other animal fossils. This allowed scientists to study the mammoth brain in detail – which in the end made them conclude that it was, in fact, very similar to the brains of today’s elephants. Which is good news – because it can help us bring the mammoths back!
2. The Tumat Puppy
— The Siberian Times (@siberian_times) March 16, 2016
Its name is inspired by the location where it was found. The village of Tumat is located deep within the Sakha Republic, in Russia. It’s one of those quintessentially Russian areas that enjoy super-cold winters and is covered with permafrost for most of the year.
The specimen of the frozen puppy was found recently, in 2015. It was concluded that it belonged to a long-lost, extinct species of dogs – its kind roamed around planet Earth 12,000 years ago. While it is a sad truth, there is also some cause for positivity – the body of the puppy was very well preserved, along with its brain. Scientists hope that soon, with the help of its DNA, they can attempt to bring the species back.
4. The Cave lions of Siberia
With Russia being as large as half a continent, and half of it being covered in arctic ice, it’s no wonder that many of these discoveries are found there. This time, scientists uncovered two Eurasian lion cubs deep in the Yakutia Republic in Siberia, Russia. The lion cubs were twins, and sadly, died at a very young age. But it was probably not due to freezing, but some sort of cave collapse.
And it is a miracle that most of their bodies are intact. They lived more than 20,000 years ago, at a time when, probably, Sibera was a bit warmer. The Eurasian lion was a fearsome beast, and was the largest lion in existence. Scientists speculate that it was feeding on deer, horses, and even men. But for some reason, they got extinct. Thanks to these specimens, one day we might learn more.
3. The Fighting Moose
This moose got actually frozen while it was fighting another moose! That’s pretty incredible and very rare. The discovery consists of two male mooses, found close to one another, in what seem to be aggressive positions. Because mooses usually fight each other every fall, scientists think that the animals got frozen in the middle of the fight.
Now how can that be? One theory is that an avalanche caught them by surprise and buried them before they could do much. Another theory is that they found in some freezing water, and kicked to swim, thus making it look like they were fighting. We may never know. They were discovered by hikers in Alaska in 2016.
2. Poor Foxes
Due to their versatility and a great presence in the colder parts of the world, foxes are one of the most common animals found trapped in ice. Another theory postulates that they have a special instinct that makes them end up diving into freezing water. They also fish, so it’s not impossible to get carried away, hunting for some crazy fish, and end up stuck in a cold pond they can’t climb out from.
This fox was found by a hunter in Germany in the Danube River.
1. The Mysterious Tardigrade
Tardigrades are one of Earth’s greatest mysteries, with some people even speculating they’re not even from Earth, but from outer space. They’re also known as water bears or space bears, and least but not last – moss piglets. They are one of the most resilient organisms known to science.
They were first discovered in 1773, and since then have been recovered from chunks of super-cold Antarctica ice (which is why they made this list!), mud volcanoes on the bottom of the sea, rain forests, even in the upper atmosphere of the Earth.
This animal can survive a whole list of impressive destructive events. For example, tardigrades can survive asteroid impacts, supernova blasts, and gamma-ray bursts. For several minutes, they can also withstand extreme temperatures ranging from 1 K (−458 °F; −272 °C), which is almost absolute zero, to as hot as 420 K (300 °F; 150 °C). Furthermore, they can take hundreds of times more radiation than a human can, and survive immense pressures. Sometimes, they can be ‘dead’ for as long as 30 years, and shrink to just 3% of their size – only to later revive, rehydrate, regain their strength and make more Tardigrade babies!
It almost makes me wish I was a Tardigrade!