While Siberia is known as a place of harsh conditions where only hardy wildlife such as brown bears, lynx and deer survive, researchers have found the fossil of a bird usually known for living in tropical temperatures.
Parrots are thought of as warmth-loving birds which live in the rain forest, but a parrot fossil more than 16 million years old has just been discovered in Siberia.
It is the first time ever that a parrot fossil has been found here and has now led to a rethink about whether the tropical birds were once prevalent in Eurasia.
Researchers working for the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow have found a single parrot leg bone on an island in the Baikal Lake.
Experts believe it was part of a small bird who lived between 16 and 18 million years ago.It is the furthest north a parrot fossil has ever been found.
The evidence adds weight to speculation that the ancient ancestors of the modern day parrots we know could have migrated from Asia to North America, across the Berengia land bridge which once joined up the two continents.
Today, there are some 400 species of parrot living in tropical and sub-tropical regions across the globe. Parrots can also be found in zones which aren’t quite so warm, such as in parts of New Zealand and South America.
The study was led by Dr Nikita Zeleny and published in the renowned journal Biology Letters.
Dr Zeleny said: ‘The presence of parrots as far north as Siberia supports their broad geographical distribution in Asia during Miocene and may have implications for the historical biogeography of Psittacoidea.’
“A dispersal of parrots via Beringia during the late Early Miocene is not completely unexpected.Today hummingbirds, which are also mostly tropical in their distribution, reach as far north as Alaska and during the warmest phase of the Miocene a more northern distribution of parrots in Asia was likely possible.”
Lake Baikal is a huge and ancient lake in Siberia, north of the border with Russia and Mongolia. It is believed to be the deepest lake anywhere else in the world and is on the popular Great Baikal Trail hiking route.
Wildlife lovers often start off from the little village of Listvyanka on its western shoreline if they are heading off for wildlife or fauna tours, and it also a place for ice-skating and dog sledding in winter months.