The ancient grey wolf would look somewhat similar to many other old ice era creatures with sabre fangs, bent tusks, and greater size.
Nevertheless, as study into a grey wolf pup discovered in permafrost near Dawson shows, the world was a totally different place for the species.
On December 21, 2020, the findings of the investigation of the ancient gray wolf pup were released in Current Biology. The wolf pup’s well-preserved corpse provided information on its age, lifespan, food, and genetic relationship to other old wolves from the Ice Age.
The young wolf was given the name ,,Zhur”. It translates to ,,wolf” in the Tr’ondk Hwch’in language.
Mineworker Neil Loveless discovered Zhr in July 2016 at a location on Last Chance Creek in Dawson, Yukon. It took four years to conduct the investigation and publish the results.
Loveless discovered an animal that resembled a shriveled-up dog. Because it was so well-preserved, he thought that it had formerly belonged to a dog. Possibly a miner’s companion that had fallen and been buried there during the gold rush.
Something that ancient is typically thought of as simply being skeleton or fossil. However, ancient animals that are trapped in permafrost can turn into unique permafrost ,,mummies” that retain much more than just bone.
Zhur’s little lips was twisted in a puppy snarl and she still had her ears, organs, skin, and fur.
Research was headed by Julie Meachen from Des Moines University. She has been investigating ice period fossils since 2000. This was the first permafrost mummy Meachen worked on. She was familiar with others such as a Siberian wolf head, a cave lion baby, and a steppe bison.
,,About Zhur, we were all quite enthusiastic. When my Facebook friends questioned me about why I didn’t embrace or cuddle her when I saw her, I replied that I truly wanted to but that I didn’t want to break or harm her since I knew she was weak. But she is adorable.” she acknowledged.
,,We had the chance to learn more about a person who lived in the Pleistocene than we have about any other individual fossil I have discovered so far in my career. This is awesome.” she said.
Meachen collaborated with other experts who have the technology to look at the various parts of an uncommon old mummy. Together, they were able to study samples to determine her age, the manner of her end, and the sort of food she consumed.
Zhur is the most complete and best-preserved ancient wolf mummy discovered to date because of the permafrost’s characteristics.
According to the research, Zhur was a female who had just turned six or seven weeks old when her den gave way under her. 57,000 years ago, during a warmer phase of the ice age, she inhabited the northern Yukon.
She probably consumed freshwater aquatic resources like salmon that would have been present in the adjacent Klondike River throughout her brief existence.
She most likely consumed salmon and other freshwater fish from the adjacent Klondike River during her brief existence.
Zhur is connected to prehistoric Beringian and Russian grey wolves, and her genes provide the basis for all currently surviving grey wolves, unlike many of those species, whose close ancestors vanished and are strange to us locally.
Yukon palaeontologist Grant Zazula stated: ,,We’re so accustomed to examining bones. I wish we discovered more mummies. Although 2020 has been difficult, I will admit that this has been one of the highlights for me. It’s been ,,Wow” every time we get a new email with a fresh discovery.” he added.
As scientists, we frequently refer to the creatures or objects we unearth as specimens, but this object isn’t simply a specimen. It’s genuine and valuable to a wide range of individuals. One of the beautiful aspects of this, according to Zazula, is the chance to learn from many various viewpoints. Zhur has traveled inside her own country and beyond since her discovery. Prior to being put on exhibit at the Beringia Centre, she underwent cleaning at a facility in Ottawa and even had X-rays taken at Alpine Veterinary Medical Centre in Whitehorse. She also went to Dawson for a special ceremony when she got her name. In order to highlight the cultural significance of wolves and other ice age creatures within their community in the exhibit at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre, scientists collaborated with members of the Tr’ondk Hwch’in.
,,As a First Nation, we were rather enthusiastic. With any accidental discoveries, we are aware that there is a link to our tradition and culture.” said Debbie Nagano, the First Nation’s director of heritage. Although the wolf is one of the two clans of the Tr’ondk Hwch’in people, Nagano said that no origin myths regarding creatures like Zhur have been transmitted. Nagano clarified: ,,Zhur is a knowledge keeper, exactly like an elder. Zhur is telling us to cooperate and preserve our obligations to the earth and to one another. She is advising us that if we uphold our moral standards and live morally, we shall outlive Zhur.”