Why Paleontologists Decided To Eat Their 50,000-Year-Old Animal Discovery

The animal that gold miners uncovered in 1979 and that is now on permanent display at the University of Alaska Museum of the North is an ice age steppe bison (pictured), and evidence suggests it was killed by the now-extinct Ice Age American lion, Panthera leoatrox. After it was excavated, a chalk-like blue substance was found on the animal — a byproduct of phosphorus from the animal tissue as it met iron in the soil — and for this reason, the creature was nicknamed “Blue Babe,” as the University of Alaska website goes on to note.

The notion of tasting the meat — which likely froze quickly after the bison died — was not unique to the Alaskan researchers, according to a 2019 report from The Atlantic. Paleontologist Dale Guthrie told Atlas Obscura his team had heard about Russian scientists excavating bison and mammoth. Those finds were frozen enough to eat at the time of their discovery, just like Blue Babe, with textured muscle tissue, and preserved fat and bone marrow. “So we decided, ‘You know what we can do? Make a meal using this bison,'” Guthrie said.