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Home / Science / More than 50,000-year-old mummified remains of caribou calf and wolf cub unveiled in Yukon

More than 50,000-year-old mummified remains of caribou calf and wolf cub unveiled in Yukon



DAWSON CITY, Yukon – A snapshot of the life of an ancient predator and its prey is put on display while the mummified remains of the glacial age of a caribou calf and a wolf cub are unveiled in Yukon .

Grant Zazula Paleontologist On Thursday, the specimens unearthed southeast of Dawson City, Yukon, are among the oldest mummified soft tissues in the world.

"Once in a while we find remains of foxes of the ice age or squirrels, but in terms of something meaningful and crazy like this, this is very, very rare." Zazula said.

Both specimens were radiocarbon dating back more than 50,000 years ago, when the northern landscape was an extremely cold grassy tundra.

While the area around Dawson City is now a boreal forest, the cub and calf were probably navigating a tree-less world, where cold, dry winds blew dust, as evidenced by the sediment found with animals, said Zazula.

wandered the earth when they are still extinct, including western camels and woolly mammoths

Both samples were discovered by miners.

Occasionally we find remains of glacial foxes or squirrels, but in terms of something meaningful and crazy like this, this is very, very rare

The mummified caribou calf was found on the gold mine placer of Tony Beets on Paradise Hill on June 3, 2016. It includes almost the entire front half of the caribou carcass, including the trunk, head and two forelimbs and with intact skin, muscles and hair.

The caribou was in a site that contains a bed of volcanic ash that dates back some 80,000 years.

"We think this is probably the oldest mammoth mummified tissue in the world for skin, hair and soft tissue muscles," said Zazula.

The wolf was found on 13 July 2016 in Favron Enterprises Ltd., and is exceptionally well preserved.

"It's beautiful, the fur, has small paws and cute tail and the upper lip curled shows the teeth, it's spectacular," he said.

Zazula said local palaeontologists were enthusiastic when they saw the remains.

"Sometimes we are jealous because in Siberia we have colleagues working in Russia, and they seem to find a new carcass of woolly mammoth every summer, but we never seem to find those in Yukon or Alaska," he said.

Yukon palaeontologists identified the mummified remains of a horse in the area about 30 years ago, but Zazula said he was not aware of significant samples of soft mammals since.


 A mummified caribou calf is seen in this undated photo. A snapshot of the life of an ancient predator and its prey is put on display while the mummified ice age remains of a caribou calf and a wolf cub is unveiled in Yukon. The territorial government says in a version that the specimens were unearthed southeast of Dawson City.

Government of Yukon /

The Canadian Press

Researchers will study the remains to see what they can learn about the caribou and wolf ancestors through genetic testing. They can also learn about animal diets, which provide clues about how the environment was at that time, studying the chemical composition of their bones and other strategies.

Beyond science, Zazula said he hopes the specimens will connect viewers with another time.

"When you look at fossil bones, this is one thing, but when you actually see an entire animal from an ancient time, it brings that old time to life," he said.

"It only makes you reflect on the extraordinary changes that have occurred in the environment, in the climate and in the animal community since that time."

Mummified animals will be exhibited in the city of Dawson for the rest of the month, then they will join an exhibition at the Yukon Beringia Interpretation Center in Whitehorse.


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