57,000-Year-Old Frozen Wolf Puppy Discovered Is The Oldest Ever Found
Researchers have revealed the discovery of an ancient wolf mummy in Canada.
The oldest and most complete wolf mummy ever discovered, the animal had been frozen into the ground for 57,000 years.
Researchers are now carrying out analysis of the body to understand how wolves migrated across Europe, Asia and North America. The mummy, which is of a puppy, was quickly placed in a freezer after it was found in 2016.
A placer miner – a type of gold mining – was blasting a wall of permafrost with a water canon when he discovered the pup, National Geographic reports.
Palaeontologists later confirmed the body, which was well preserved, was that of a female cub.
Experts said finding such an intact wolf in the Yukon, a territory in northwest Canada, is rare. Despite having lived thousands of years ago, the wolf’s fur coat and papillae of her tongue are still intact.
‘In Siberia, preservation like this is fairly common because of the way the permafrost preserves things there, which is way less common in the Yukon, Alaska, and other parts of North America,’ Julie Meachen, a palaeontologist at Des Moines University said.
‘She tells us a lot,’ Meachen adds, noting that the wolf was seven weeks at the time of her death.
The wolf, named Zhur (which translates to ‘wolf’) by the local Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people, is thought to have lived during an interglacial period.
Ross Barnett, a palaeontologist at the University of Copenhagen, said ‘Zhur is from a time period that isn’t very well-known in the Yukon in terms of mummies’.
Zhur is thought to have belonged to a population of wolves that have genetic connections to those in Alaska and Eurasia, but unlike the ones that exist in the Yukon today. This suggests that the first grey wolves in the territory became extinct.
Tyler Murchie, a paleogeneticist from McMaster University said:
To have such extraordinary preservation of a carnivore is a unique situation to look into Ice Age ecosystems from a predator’s point of view. Ancient DNA repeatedly demonstrates how much more complex evolutionary histories and paleoecology are than we might otherwise derive from studies of bones and fossils.
Studies of Zhur’s teeth concluded that she would have fed on meals from rivers and streams, like fish. Researchers also believe that she likely died in a den collapse, the rapid burial of which would have contributed to the preservation of her body.
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