YAKUTIA, Siberia - Scientists have discovered a 40,000-year-old furry wolf head that was perfectly preserved in permafrost from the Ice Age in Siberia.
The ancient wolf head, found in the Russian Arctic region of Yakutia, still had its fangs intact.
Scientists dated the giant Pleistocene wolf's head at older than 40,000 years, and measured it to be nearly 16 inches long, the Siberian Times reported.
“This is a unique discovery of the first-ever remains of a fully grown Pleistocene wolf with its tissue preserved. We will be comparing it to modern-day wolves to understand how the species has evolved and to reconstruct its appearance,” Albert Protopopov, from the Republic of Sakha Academy of Sciences, told the paper.
Valery Plotnikov, a top researcher at the local branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said the animal belonged to an ancient subspecies of wolf that lived at the same time as the mammoths and became extinct alongside them.
Scientists said it was an adult, about 25 percent bigger than today's wolves, but did not say whether it was male or female. It was aged from two to four years old when it died, the Siberian Times reported.
Plotnikov called the discovery unique because scientists previously only had found wolf skulls without tissues or fur, while this head has ears, a tongue and a perfectly preserved brain.
Pavel Efimov, a man who lives in the Abyisky district of Yakutia, found the wolf head last summer.
“We hope to learn a lot about the ecology and evolution of this interesting predator,” Protopopov said.
Scientists also announced the discovery of an “immaculately well-preserved” cave lion cub that they believe died shortly after birth around 30,000 years ago, the Siberian Times reported. Naoki Suzuki, a professor of paleontology with the Jikei University School of Medicine in Tokyo, told the paper that the cub's muscle, organs and brains are still in good condition.
“We want to assess their physical capabilities and ecology by comparing them with the lions and wolves of today,” Suzuki said.
Protopopov said the discovery of the cub, which measured about 16 inches long and close to 2 pounds, would also “give a lot of scientific information about ancient cave lions.”
This is the third full carcass cave lion cub discovered, he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.