Gold miners in Canada made an interesting discovery in the Canadian wilderness that has left scientists baffled. In 2016, they uncovered the remains of a very well-preserved caribou calf and wolf pup that each lived more than 50,000 years ago. The specimens were located in the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Traditional Territory, a First Nation territory in Yukon, according to reports.
Further, officials note that the caribou discovered in a site containing an 80,000-year-old volcanic ash bed is now one of the oldest examples of mummified mammal tissue in the world.
Interestingly, and what experts say make these discoveries even rarer, is that each animal still had hair, skin, and muscle tissue. The caribou is missing some parts of its body, as only the front half was still intact, but the wolf body was complete.
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver noted that these findings could help to “shed light on Yukon’s fascinating Ice Age history and will help us understand how these long gone creatures lived in the environment they inhabited.”
The caribou calf was found first, on Tony Beets’ gold mine on Paradise Hill — Beets is best known from the Discovery show Gold Rush. The wolf pup was found the following month nearby.
Beets explained on Facebook: “We found the caribou and our neighbors, the Favron’s found the wolf pup. Such amazing things to be found here under the midnight sun.”
While the discoveries were made two years ago, the specimens were unveiled at the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre recently.
Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Chief Roberta Joseph explained the significance of these findings, sharing: “For Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, wolf and caribou are very important and interconnected.” Chief Joseph added: “The caribou has fed and clothed our people for thousands of years. The wolf maintains balance within the natural world, keeping the caribou healthy.”
Both mummified animals will be on display for the rest of the month, before joining an exhibit at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre in Whitehorse.
Minister of Tourism and Culture Jeanie Dendys remarked, “These specimens will help scientists learn more about the ancient mammal species that roamed Beringia, increasing our knowledge and ability to share the stories of this lost, ancient land.”
“To our knowledge, this is the only mummified ice age wolf ever found in the world,” Grant Zazula, a local paleontologist working with the Yukon government, remarked.
Julie Meachen, a carnivore morphologist who works with ice age mammals at Des Moines University, will soon be doing research on the wolf pup. Meachen noted: “When Grant sent me the pictures and asked me to participate I was really, really excited. I was sort of beside myself.”
She added: “We want to do an ancient DNA test to see who it’s related to and look at its microbiome to see if there are gut bacteria still there.”
Among the many comments left on the Daily Mail‘s coverage of the ancient find were those who were blown away, including one person who noted: “All discoveries like this are a fascinating find” and another person remarked, “It’s amazing how well-preserved they are.”
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