During the erosion of frozen ground at a gold mine in the Yukon, workers found a perfectly preserved mummy of a young she-wolf. According to scientists, it had been in the ground for about 57,000 years. The researchers reconstructed the lifestyle of the animal. It turned out that it fed mainly on fish, and genetically related to wolves from Siberia. The results are published in the journal Current Biology.
“This is the most perfect wolf mummy ever found. Except for the eyes, it is 100 percent intact,” Julie Meachen, associate professor of anatomy at Des Moines University in Iowa, U.S., said in a press release from the publisher. – It allowed us to find out so many facts about her that we almost reconstructed her life.
Locals from the nearby village of Tr’ondek Hwach’in gave the she-wolf the name Jur.
The first question scientists tried to answer was how the animal ended up in the permafrost. It takes a unique set of circumstances for a mummy to have survived so well.
“The animal must die directly in the permafrost and be buried quickly for fossilization to occur. If the body lies in the tundra too long, it will decompose or be eaten. That’s why such mummies are rarely found in the Yukon,” Michen continues. – “We think Jur was in her den at the time of her death and died instantly as a result of the roof collapse.
The results of the study showed that the little wolf was about 7 weeks old and she was eating and developing normally, which means she did not die of starvation or disease.
Modern methods of analysis allowed scientists to establish that the wolf’s diet consisted mainly of fish, especially salmon, which is somewhat unusual for wolves. The authors think the reason is that the den was located on the bank of a river.
Analysis of Jur’s genome confirmed that she descended from ancient wolves from Siberia, which are the ancestors of all modern wolves in North America.
“Unfortunately, we don’t know anything about her family and what happened to her mother or siblings, why she was in the den alone,” says the scientist. – Perhaps she was the only pup. Or others were not in the den at the time of the collapse.”
Residents of the Tr’ondek Hwach’in settlement attach special importance to the find. They plan to display the Jur at the Yukon-Beringia Interpretive Center in Whitehorse and then take it throughout the Yukon.
In the Pleistocene, the Bering Strait site was an isthmus of land through which animals migrated from Siberia to North America, then dispersed far to the south. The authors suggest that warming in the Arctic will contribute to the fact that in the coming years, as the permafrost melts, new finds will emerge that will allow to more accurately determine the role of this region in the formation of the fauna of the entire American continent.