Spooky Season: Scientists Extract Blood from 42,000-Year-Old Foal

If that’s not spooky enough, they also hope to regrow viable cells from the sample and maybe even make a clone.

Semyon Grigoryev/North-Eastern Federal University

In August 2018, a group of professional mammoth tusk hunters — sidenote, I really want this listed on my resume — unearthed the nearly intact remains of a 42,000-year-old foal during an expedition to Siberia’s Batagaika crater. The specimen was perfectly preserved in the region’s permanently frozen ground.

The following April, Smithsonian Magazine reported, “…researchers from Russia’s North-Eastern Federal University and the South Korean Sooam Biotech Research Foundation extracted liquid blood and urine from the specimen, paving the way for further analysis aimed at cloning the long-dead horse and resurrecting the extinct Lenskaya lineage to which it belongs.”

It is only the second time researchers have extracted liquid blood from the remains of prehistoric creatures, and, at the time of reporting, the lab had failed over 20 times to regrow the samples into viable cells. The main blood cells do not have nuclei with DNA, so the effort could be absolutely hopeless.

The Russian researcher leading the project, Lena Grigoryeva, remained positive, though, stating that the find still yielded a lot of information, such as the coat color of the extinct horses of the Pleistocene era.

In life, the colt was a striking bay, dying at just two weeks of age, most likely in a “natural trap,” i.e., mud.

“A lot of mud and silt which the foal gulped during the last seconds of [the foal’s] life were found inside its gastrointestinal tract,” said Semyon Grigoryev of Yakutia’s Mammoth Museum to Russian news agency TASS, as reported by the Siberian Times.

There are also massive ethical and technological questions raised by reviving long-gone species, such as quality of life, seeing as how we don’t have a viable Ice Age habitat lying around, and genetic diversity with the inherent risk of inbreeding.

Still, science is almost always stranger and scarier than fiction. Take, for instance, the July 2018 resurrection of two 40,000-year-old roundworms “defrosted” after millennia in the Arctic permafrost.

Anyone seen The Thing (1982)

Go riding.

Amanda Uechi Ronan is an author, equestrian and wannabe race car driver. Follow her on Instagram @amanda_uechi_ronan.