44,000 Years Old Wolf Autopsied in Russia

North-Eastern Federal University
photo: Michil YAKOVLEV / NEFU Corporate Media Editorial Office

At the Mammoth Museum laboratory of the North-Eastern Federal University, scientists conducted an autopsy of a fossilized wolf. The wolf had lain in the Arctic for more than 44,000 years.

During the procedure, scientists took samples of the internal organs and gastrointestinal contents. They aimed to identify and study ancient viruses, microbiota, and the animal's diet. Scientists also took soft tissue samples from the ancient predator to study its genome. They will compare it with the genomes of modern relatives. This is the first complete detection of an adult predator of such a geological age, which has no analogues in the world.

Moreover, this is the first discovery of an adult predator from the Late Pleistocene. It was found by local residents back in 2021. But the conditions for conducting the autopsy only became available now.

The wolf's stomach was preserved in an isolated state with no contamination. This unique preservation made the task particularly noteworthy. As a result of the autopsy, researchers hope to obtain an instant snapshot of the biota of the ancient Pleistocene. This was an active and large predator, and they have an opportunity to find out what it fed on. Additionally, the objects consumed by its prey ended up in its stomach.

The scientists also collected a premolar to determine the biological age of the fossil. However, judging by the wear and tear of the teeth and the development of the sagittal crest, it can already be said that this is an adult male. After studying this fossil, scientists will begin studying another fossil. The second fossil is also a wolf, discovered in Yakutia and brought in 2023.

Specialists from St. Petersburg participated in the autopsy. They have been working with Yakut paleontological material for many years and conducting joint scientific work with regional scientists.

The study of the wolf is part of comprehensive research conducted in Yakutia. For the first time, this research includes the study of paleogenomes and paleomicrobiota.