lark siberia
© Love Dalén
When miners first unearthed a bird from permafrost in Siberia, it was so well-preserved that they might have thought the poor creature had perished just the day before.

But radiocarbon dating and genetic analysis later revealed that the frozen specimen was actually a 46,000-year-old horned lark.

The bird was discovered by fossil ivory hunters near the village of Belaya Gora in northeastern Siberia. They then brought it to scientists Nicolas Dussex, Love Dalén and their team of experts at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, who confirmed the bird's classification.

Their research was published in the journal Communications Biology on Friday.

"This finding implies that the climatic changes that took place at the end of the last Ice Age led to formation of new subspecies," Dalén told CNN, suggesting that the icy avian corpse might be the ancestor of two of today's lark species, including one type found in northern Russia and the other in the Mongolian steppe.

The bird's remarkable condition is primarily thanks to its frozen burial site, but Dussex admits this particular case is extraordinary.

"The fact that such a small and fragile specimen was near intact also suggests that dirt/mud must have been deposited gradually, or at least that the ground was relatively stable so that the bird's carcass was preserved in a state very close to its time of death," he said.

The permafrost of Siberia, a layer of ice and soil that covers much of the region, has brought forth a number of paleontological marvels. Last year, Dalén and Dussex began a study on an 18,000-year-old canine that was dug up at the same site as the lark. But despite its near-perfect preservation, they could not conclude whether the mammal was a dog or a wolf.