Our big blue planet’s frightening heat-up continues to thaw out permafrost in the Arctic – a sobering, carbon-emitting trend that nonetheless has been turning up, from a paleontological perspective anyhow, some silver linings. That’s particularly true in the Russian republic of Yakutia (or Sakha), where – despite its drastic ecological and social consequences here – the melting ground has been turning up a regular bestiary of long-expired but well-preserved Ice Age megafauna left and right.

A perfectly preserved extinct cave bear, teeth still intact. Image © NEFU

The latest find – and it’s a whopper – comes from the Lyakhovsky Islands, part of Yakutia’s New Siberian archipelago lying between the Laptev and the East Siberian seas. Here, reindeer herders stumbled across the “mummy” (roughly speaking) of a full-grown cave bear, that iconic ursid that, in various forms, shuffled and huffed across an impressively large Eurasian range before shuffling and huffing into extinction sometime in the later Pleistocene.

The ancient carcass – found on Bolshoy Lyakhovsky (Great Lyakhovsky) Island, the biggest of the Lyakhovsky cluster – is in about as impeccable shape as you could expect from a beast that kicked the bucket sometime between 22,000 and 39,000 years ago.

The cave bear's nose was fully intact. Image © NEFU

“Today this is the first and only find of its kind – a whole bear carcass with soft tissues,” said Lena Grigorieva of the North-Eastern Federal University (NEFU) in a press release. That includes internal organs as well as the bruin’s tender nose.

The remains of cave bears – reckoned at about the size scale of today’s larger brown-bear subspecies and the polar bear – aren’t exactly in short supply: Loads of their bones have turned up in caves and other natural sepulchres across Europe, many likely from bears that died – as malnourished and old bears sometimes do – in winter sleep. This Bolshoy Lyakhovsky bear, plus a recently found cave-bear cub in a similar state of pseudo-perfection on the Yakutian mainland, offer great potential for both morphological and molecular analysis.

That means, among other things, we could get further clues into the cave bear’s diet, long speculated to be primarily herbivorous – though some studies suggest it might have been more thoroughly omnivorous, akin to the feeding preferences of brown bears (whose lineage may have split from that of cave bears some 1.2 to 1.4 million years ago).

The cave bear is in as impeccable shape as you could expect from a beast that kicked the bucket sometime between 22,000 and 39,000 years ago. Image © NEFU

“The research is planned on as large a scale as in the study of the famous Malolyakhovsky mammoth,” Grigorieva said in the NEFU press release.

That proboscidean, uncovered in 2013, is only one of quite the haul of Pleistocene creatures found lately in Yakutia: not just a healthy share of mammoths, but also a horse foal (from which, you’ll be interested to know, the world’s “most ancient liquid urine” – about 42,000 years old – was extracted), a grimacing wolf head, scruffy little cave-lion cubs, ancient puppies, and woolly rhinos.