Gold miners in Canada have unearthed a mummified wolf pup, complete with fur, flesh, internal organs and bones. Scientists said the Ice Age animal died over 50,000 years ago, but remained well-preserved. The rare find was discovered at an 80,000-year-old volcanic ash bed in July 2016 and unveiled last Thursday.
Another ancient animal that roamed the Earth before prehistoric man was also found at the same site. It was a caribou, completely intact with a head, two front limbs and the torso. The mid half of the frozen animal to its legs was gone. That fossil was unearthed in June 2016.
Both Animals Are the Best Preserved Ice Age Specimens of Their Kind in the World
Both animal remains are currently on display in Dawson City, and will later be moved to the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa, Canada.
“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,” Minister of Tourism and Culture Jeanie Dendys said in a statement.
Dr. Grant Zazula, a paleontologist, said fossil bones and mummified carcasses dating back to the Ice Age were often unearthed from the permafrost in Yukon, the site of the discovery. He said the ancient wolf pup and prehistoric caribou specimens hold keys to understanding the Ice Age, adding they have also enriched the history of the Yukon.
Zazula noted as much is scientifically known, the wolf is the only mummified ice age specimen of its kind, while the caribou has the oldest mummified mammal tissue in the world.
DNA and Microbiome Tests Will Reveal the Diet and How the Specimens Relate To Modern Animals
Paleontologists have expressed great delight at the animal remains, wondering at their complete preservation. Ancient fossils are rarely found complete, and where bones may be complete to some extent, flesh and internal organs are often missing.
It is believed that researchers will be able to gain insight into the world the prehistoric animals lived in and the environment in which they thrived when glaciers covered a large part of the Earth’s surface.
Julie Meachen, a carnivore morphologist who is an expert with Ice Age creatures at Des Moines University, said they would be analyzing the animals’ DNA. The DNA would provide insight into where the animals came from and how they relate to modern wolves.
A full analysis of their microbiome might also yield gut bacteria that will reveal the diet of the ancient animals and the plants or food available during their prehistoric time.