Two gold miners in Dawson, Yukon, have uncovered more than a precious metal. In their quest for gold, they discovered the mummified remains of a wolf pup: head, body, tail, fur and skin, all intact. There also were partial remains of a caribou calf found along with the wolf pup, in the melting Yukon permafrost.
The pup and caribou calf are from the ice age, and have been radiocarbon-dated at in excess of 50,000 years old. Although ice age wolf bones have been found in Yukon, researchers believe these mummified remains of the wolf pup, which include perfectly preserved skin, muscle tissue, and fur, are the only ones ever to have been found.
Plans are in place to do ancient DNA testing to determine what it is related to, and check for gut bacteria, by looking at its microbiome. There will be additional tests run on the pup in an attempt to find other factors in its brief life, such as cause of death, diet, health, age and genetics.
Discoveries like this are gateways into the past. Learning all one can from a mummified wolf pup is a time machine, of sorts, that provides a brief look into the life of resident ice age creatures, a mere 50,000 years ago.