An 8-year-old girl discovered a set of prehistoric woolly mammoth and bison leg bones after a landslide along the banks of the Oka river near Novinki in western Russia. Photo/Live Science
MOSCOW – An 8-year-old girl discovered a set of leg bones from a woolly mammoth and a prehistoric bison after a landslide along the banks of the Oka river near Novinki in western Russia. The bones are relatively well preserved, with spongy tissue exposed by sediment degradation.
According to Russian news reports, the little girl named Maryam Mirsaitova noticed a series of strange objects while fishing with her father along the banks of the Oka River. As it turned out, he discovered the condyle, or knee joint, and lower tibia of the woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius).
His father sent his photographs to the Nizhny Novgorod Museum-Reserve in the hope that researchers could identify his finds. The size of the bones suggests they belonged to a large adult mammoth and researchers estimate the animal likely lived around 100,000 years ago.
Woolly mammoths were common in the cold northern regions of Europe and Asia around 700,000 years ago, and then in northern North America around 100,000 years ago. In the area where Maryam found the fossil, mammoths likely survived until around 10,000 years ago.
Maryam’s findings also include vertebrae from steppe bison (Bison priscus), which thrived in Europe, Asia and North America during the Pleistocene epoch (2.6 million to 11,700 years ago). It is the ancestor of the modern European bison (Bison bonasus) and American bison (Bison bison).
In a translated post on VK, the Nizhny Novgorod Museum-Reserve said Maryam also found bones belonging to an animal that had not yet been identified. Russia is rich in mammoth fossils, especially in Siberia.
Some specimens have even been preserved due to very cold environmental conditions which slowed down decay. Like the mummy of a mammoth child named Lyuba found on the Yamal Peninsula in 2007.
A population of mammoths persisted on Wrangel Island in Russia until about 4,000 years ago, where they became isolated and likely became extinct due to the effects of inbreeding. When the ice age ended, megafauna that adapted to cold temperatures lost their habitat and food sources. Human hunting may have accelerated the extinction of mammoths.