Wolf cub found ‘perfectly preserved’ for 57,000 years

57,000-year-old wolf cub discovered 0:23

(CNN) – A perfectly preserved wolf cub, hidden in permafrost for 57,000 years and described by researchers as “the oldest and most complete wolf”, was discovered in the Yukon, Canada.

The creature, named Zhùr by the local people of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation, was discovered in the Klondike gold fields near the town of Dawson. It was found by a gold miner who was blowing up a wall of frozen mud with water.

“This mummy is so complete, it basically has all of its skin, most of its fur … all of its soft tissues are present, and it is 56,000 years old or so,” Julie Meachen, associate professor of anatomy at the University of California, told CNN. Des Moines University in Iowa.

The female cub is, according to Meachen, “the oldest and most complete wolf that has ever been found.” This allows researchers to delve into what his life was like.

Using X-ray techniques, the experts determined that the cub, which has been preserved in permafrost, died at 6 to 7 weeks of age.

Meanwhile, applying a technique called stable isotope analysis revealed that the animal lived during a time when glaciers had receded.


The experts used non-invasive X-ray techniques to find out more about the wolf cub’s life.

“There weren’t that many glaciers around, which means there was a lot more fresh water,” he said. “There were many streams, many rivers that flowed and probably many other animals around. She lived in exuberant times, “he explained.

The researchers found that the wolf cub’s diet was influenced by its proximity to water. The isotope analysis revealed that “she and her mother ate mostly aquatic resources, things like salmon, maybe some shorebirds,” Meachen said.

Who is the descendant of the wolf cub found in Canada?

A DNA analysis revealed that the cub is descended from ancient wolves from Russia, Siberia and Alaska, the ancestors of modern wolves.

“It is not a surprise, she is related to the things that were there at that time,” he explained. “But the great thing about that, which most people might not know, is that the wolves in the ice age were only distantly related to the wolves that exist today,” he said.

“They are still the same species, but they are too different to be the same species. His genetics have changed quite a bit over time. The diversity of wolves has diminished over time and, again, it has expanded, ”he explained.

“She is truly an ancient wolf, and she was related to all the wolves around her at the time,” Meachen said.


The cub died at 6 or 7 weeks of age.

Very specific circumstances are needed to create a permafrost mummy, the researchers said, although several well-preserved wolf cubs have been recovered from Siberia. However, this puppy, found in North America, is particularly rare.

«It is rare to find these mummies in the Yukon. The animal has to die in a permafrost location, where the ground is frozen all the time, and they have to get buried very quickly, as in any other fossilization process, “Meachen said in a statement. “If it stays too long in the frozen tundra it will decompose or eat it,” he explained.

Due to its “pristine” condition, experts think that the wolf cub died instantly. This perhaps happened when his lair collapsed, as the data shows that he did not starve.

The research was published Monday in the journal Current Biology.

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