Editor’s note: Associated Press reported Des Moines University said journalists and other readers should disregard the press release about the wolf puppy. The following is based on reports on the original release.
In 2016, Neil Loveless, a gold digger, stumbled upon a complete wolf mummy while blasting a wall of permafrost with a water cannon in search of wealth in Canada’s Yukon Territory.
Immediately after the discovery, Loveless placed the mammal in a freezer until paleontologists could see it over, National Geographic reports.
In a study recently published by Des Moines University, paleontologists revealed that the well-preserved animal was a young female and was a member of a disappearing ecosystem from the Pleistocene era, a time when northwestern Canada’s wildlife contained mastodons and other megafauna.
(Editor’s note: The Associated Press later reported that Des Moines University said journalists and other readers should disregard the press release – entitled “Ancient wolf puppy mummy uncovered in Yukon permafrost” – released earlier today, December 18, 2020 over GlobeNewswire. It is unclear why the press release was ignored.)
The puppy was reportedly named Zhùr, meaning ‘wolf’ in the Hän language, by the local Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people, USA Today reports.
“The test is of particular importance to the local Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people who have agreed to exhibit Zhùr at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Center in Whitehorse,” said a press release from USA Today.
Des Moines University sent a picture of the mummified puppy on Twitter The 21 of December:
“(Zhùr) is the most complete and oldest mummy of a wolf ever found,” said Julie Meachen, an associate professor of anatomy at Des Moines University. “It’s really rare to have this kind of mummies in North America. They are much more common from Siberia. ”
According to National Geographic, Zhùr appears to have died during a hollow collapse, and the quick burial facilitated the extraordinary preservation of her body. Other mammals from this era, such as Arctic ground squirrels and black-footed ferrets, have also been discovered preserved in the same way. Meachen says that this process essentially “freezes” the puppy’s body.
An analysis of the puppy’s genome revealed that she is a descendant “from ancient wolves from Russia, Siberia and Alaska, who are also ancestors to modern wolves,” says the release, according to USA Today. Studies also revealed that the puppy before her untimely death had recently gone from weening to eating more solid foods like fish, according to National Geographic.
Animal behavior during the Pleistocene period is still largely a mystery to paleontologists, but discoveries such as Zhùr provide important clues and give scientists renewed energy.
“I mean, when I saw her, I was so overwhelmed by how beautifully preserved she is,” Meachen said (via USA Today)