The mummified little she-wolf - in perfect condition - was discovered by people involved in gold mining in Canada in 2016, but only now have we learned the secrets it holds. “He's the most complete Ice Age wolf we've ever found. All her soft tissues, her hair, her skin, and even her tiny nose are there. It's just complete. And that's very rare, explains study author Julie Meachen of Des Moines University. The specimen underwent a number of highly detailed analyzes, including radiocarbon dating, DNA sampling, and measurements of oxygen isotope levels. Thanks to this, we know exactly when the puppy died, and we know its age at the time of death, which was only 7 weeks.
In addition to being the most complete gray wolf of the Ice Age, the puppy is also surprising where it was found in North America. Such species are much more common, for example, in Siberia, so most of the research is carried out on them, although at the same time much more difficult to extract them there, and this time we have the opportunity to get to know the ancestors of American wolves better. The researchers found that the mitochondrial genome carried in the maternal line is similar to the wolves of both Russian and Beringia, i.e. the vegetated belt of land that exists during the ice age and connects today's Siberia with northern Canada and Alaska.
Such a well-preserved specimen also allowed researchers to better understand the diet of the wolves of that time, although interestingly, ultimately it was the bones, not the 57,000-year-old intestines, that revealed these secrets. In its short life, a puppy has mostly eaten food that lives in the water, such as Chinook salmon, which is also found in modern wolves, who are able to change their diet seasonally to fish during their stay in Alaska. However, scientists assumed rather that the Yukon wolves fed mainly on buffalo and Arctic musk oxen during the Ice Age. It cannot be denied that researchers were very interested in another fact - why the puppy is so well preserved and why he was alone at the time of death. One theory is that the cavity must have collapsed, so the body immediately had ideal conditions for mummification - cold, dry, and out of air. So why wasn't the rest of the herd there when a puppy of that age was certainly not left without siblings or mothers? Perhaps they have left the lair, but unfortunately it will not be possible to establish this. However, we can count on the fact that as global warming progresses, it will find more such relics of the past.