57,000 year-old wolf pup found frozen in the Arctic

From National Geographic:

In the summer of 2016, a gold miner in Canada's Yukon Territory found an unexpected treasure. While blasting a wall of permafrost with a water cannon to release whatever riches might be found inside, Neil Loveless saw something melting out of the ice. It wasn't a precious mineral, but the oldest and most complete wolf mummy ever discovered.

Loveless quickly placed the frozen pup in a freezer until paleontologists could have a look. They found that the well-preserved animal was a juvenile female, part of a vanished ecosystem dating to a time when northwestern Canada was home to American mastodons and other Pleistocene megafauna. The local Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in people named the 57,000-year-old pup Zhur, meaning "wolf" in the language of their community.

This Eurasian pup—which must have crossed the Bering land bridge to the Yukon during a time that we're still learning about—is the most intact mummified animal body of its kind that scientists have yet of find. That preservation can lead to new discoveries about the seven-week-old's diet (almost certainly still frozen within its cadaver):

Zhur's body also tells us about her life. Only about seven weeks old when she died, the pup had just passed weaning age, when she would have begun eating more solid foods. The geochemical signatures in her teeth indicate that she subsisted on meals from rivers and streams, perhaps fish like the Chinook salmon that still spawn in the rivers near where she was found. Many modern wolves in the interior of Alaska have similar diets, noshing on fish more often than big game.


Zhur existed at ancient intersections, not just between cold glacial periods, but between populations of wolves that are now separated. By studying the pup's genes, scientists can gain a greater understanding of her place in the ancient world and what has changed since then."Ancient DNA is bringing to life the dynamism of the Late Pleistocene that was mostly invisible from just the bones," Barnett says.

Pretty cool!

57,000 year-old wolf puppy found frozen in Yukon permafrost [Riley Black / National Geographic]