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'Incredible' Finds on Wolf Pup That Died 57K Years Ago

How this mummified Ice Age pup died, her last meal, and more
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 22, 2020 10:45 AM CST

(Newser) – We now know a lot more about the 57,000-year-old wolf pup who still looks cute enough to pet. The mummified gray wolf discovered in Canada's Yukon territory in 2016 is the subject of a new study, revealing the female pup's internal organs are as well-preserved as her coat. "When I looked at the X-rays and could see her intestines, that gave me a little thrill," lead author Julie Meachen, a paleontologist at Des Moines University, tells Live Science. "She is the most complete wolf specimen ever found from the Ice Age." While such specimens are common in Siberia, they aren't easy to get at. This pup—named Zhur, the Indigenous Han word for "wolf"—basically fell into researchers' hands. Back in 2016, Neil Loveless was working in the Klondike gold fields near Dawson City when he saw what he thought was a puppy who'd "fallen down the mine shaft," per the CBC.

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When paleontologists got a look at the specimen, they were stunned by her completeness. They've since learned the pup—who was just seven weeks old when she died in a suspected den collapse, per Gizmodo—isn't related to any existing gray wolf species in North America. She has similarities to Russian gray wolves and Beringian wolves, an extinct group that lived in modern-day Yukon and Alaska, according to the study in Current Biology, which argues this is proof of interbreeding across the Bering Land Bridge that once connected Siberia and Alaska. Another surprising find is a likely last meal of fish, possibly salmon. "This is kind of incredible that we can get all this detail from her when she lived so long ago," Meachen tells the CBC. She adds global warming may reveal "other exceptionally preserved frozen mummies ... providing new windows into the past." (Read more paleontology stories.)

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