wolf pup that has been flawlessly preserved for 57,000 years in permafrost finally exposes its secrets, including how it died and how it ended up alone for so long. The mummified gray wolf (Canis lupus), which was a female, was found in Yukon by a miner working in the permafrost.
Many types of study, including radiocarbon dating, DNA sample collection, and measurements of isotope and oxygen levels, validated the time the wolf cub passed away.
“It is the most complete Ice Age wolf specimen ever discovered. All his soft tissues, hair, skin, even his little nose, were all preserved. It’s complete and that’s a very rare thing,”Julie Meachen, lead author of the study describing the discovery and a professor at Des Moines University in Iowa.
X- ray scanning of the skeleton and teeth revealed that Zhùr (meaning “wolf” in the Hän language of the indigenous Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people) was only seven weeks old when he died.
Zhùr’s mummy is extremely significant to academics since it was found in North America and is the most complete Ice Age wolf yet found.
This gave researchers a unique chance to see where wolves first appeared in North America and made it easy to obtain and examine the bones. However, having such a complete specimen gave scientists the chance to investigate what the wolves of the Ice Age consumed.
The researchers was eventually able to reconstruct Zhur’s diet, albeit not using the stomach, but rather the examination of the bones.
Zhùr was mostly an aquatic predator throughout its brief existence, eating fish like the Chinook salmon that presently spawn in the Klondike River. For contemporary wolves, who alter their food in Alaska with the seasons, that is not unusual.
How the Zhùr chick was mummified, and the reason she was abandoned are two of the largest unanswered questions surrounding her. According to researchers, she was murdered when the lair fell on top of her. That would account for the bones’ exceptional preservation as they would have been engulfed in a completely enclosed, chilly environment immediately.
Such discoveries may become more common as the planet warms and the permafrost begins to melt and reveal its secrets.
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