A rare, mummified pup of a wolf believed to be 50,000 years old is currently on display at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Center.
The remains were found intact, with its hair, skin, muscle tissues perfectly preserved, during a mining operation at the Klondike region of the Yukon territory in Canada. It was recovered by members of the Yukon Paleontology Program.
Mummified Wolf Pup
Researchers believe the mummified wolf pup was merely a few weeks old when it died for unknown reasons. It was found in July 2016 with its head, tail, paws, skin, and fur intact.
"It's beautiful, the fur, it's got the cute little paws and tail and the curled upper lip showing its teeth," said paleontologist Grant Zazula to a Canadian Press news agency via BBC. "It's spectacular."
Meanwhile, the caribou was found a month earlier and still has it front half including head, torso, and two front limbs. It was discovered at a site containing volcanic ash.
Both animal carcasses were radiocarbon dated and are believed to be over 50,000 years old.
"Yukon has a wealth of fossil bones and mummified carcasses of ice age mammals are rarely unearthed here from the permafrost," explained Dr. Zazula. "Both specimens on display here are species that survived the end of the ice age and are a fundamental part of the Yukon landscape today, and to our knowledge, this is the only mummified ice age wolf ever found in the world."
Other mammals that existed during the Ice Age in the Yukon region, such as the woolly mammoth, are now extinct. However, the distant relatives of the mummified wolf pup and caribou still roam the Earth.
A Time Machine Back To The Ice Age
The discovery of the mummified mammals has generated excitement around the scientific community. It gives scientists a look at how these animals lived in the environment during the era.
Julie Meachen, a carnivore morphologist from Des Moines University, will soon be doing her research on the wolf pup. In an interview with The Guardian, she revealed that she will perform an ancient DNA test and check its microbiome for gut bacteria.
Other hopes to study the diet, health, age, genetics, and cause of death of the animals. Because the carcasses remain intact, future investigations should not be a problem.
The mummified wolf pup and caribou will next be sent to the Canadian Conservation Institute near Ottawa.