Yukon miner's 57,000-year-old mummified wolf discovery excites scientists
Results from a four-year-old discovery in the Yukon has been published in a leading scientific publication.
In July 2016 Yukon by miner Neil Loveless discovered a mummified wolf pup at Last Chance Creek just outside Dawson, Yukon. Earlier this month Current Biology published its findings.
Scientists said the discovery is extraordinary, calling the animal remains the best preserved and most complete mummy of an ancient wolf found to date.
The female wolf lived approximately 57,000 years ago and died in her den at about six–seven weeks old during a collapse.
The mummified wolf pup is important to the local Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people, who named it Zhùr, meaning ‘wolf’ in the Hän language of their community.
"During her short life, she ate aquatic resources, and is related to ancient Beringian and Russian gray wolves and her clade is basal to all living gray wolves," writes lead author Julie Meachen.
Due to the amount of preservation, scientists can better study the animals diet and its link to wolves in Asia, which crossed to the Americas when the two continents were connected by an ice bridge.
Neil Loveless and his discovery. Photo courtesy of Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre
"Zhùr’s mitochondrial genome groups within a clade of other ancient Beringian and Russian gray wolf mitochondrial genomes that is basal to all extant wolves except for high altitude wolves," writes Meachen. "We estimate that the common ancestor of this basal clade lived 86,700–67,500 years ago (mean 76,800 years ago). Because the clade to which Zhùr belongs is not the direct mitochondrial ancestor of gray wolves in the region today, her mitochondrial genome provides evidence of at least one wave of regional extirpation and population replacement in northern North America."
The mummified wolf pup is now on display at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre.