57,000-Year-Old Wolf Pup discovered While Gold Mining

Something remarkable was found by a gold miner working in the Yukon. The miner discovered a wolf pup that is believed to be 57,000 years old, which still has its fur. Researchers say the wolf pup lived in an underground den for six to seven weeks before the den collapsed over her. The only explanation why the real old wolf pup is so well protected is that the den collapsed around her is now in frigid permafrost.

The pup was named Zhùr, which in the Hän language means “wolf.” With descriptions of the face and lips and tiny claws still on each paw, Zhùr is extremely well preserved. The wolf is coated in ginger-coloured fur, offering a very good picture of what the wolf pup must have looked like tens of thousands of years ago when it was alive.

57,000-Year-Old Wolf Pup discovered While Gold Mining

When woolly mammoths were common, those creatures roamed the World, and several species are now extinct around when the wolf lived. In 2016, a fourth-generation placer miner (placer mining is a form of gold mining) named Neil Loveless first discovered Zhùr. Instead of chemicals, placer mining utilises water and gravity and targets giant water cannons on permafrost cliffs.

57,000-Year-Old Wolf Pup discovered While Gold Mining
Neil Loveless holding the wolf pup

The water cannons defrost the permafrost and thaw out the sediment between the rocks, which falls to the ground below, (in this case, the sediment is gold). The cannons are switched off a few times a day while using the mining process, and miners walk around searching for fossils that are usually found during mining operations. Initially, Loveless believed that the creature was a piece of moss, so he kicked it, later discovering that it was the bones of an animal he thought was a puppy.

In the local area, he reached out to a palaeontologist and stored the creature in the freezer. Using hair follicles, the pup was dated to over 50,000 years old. Zhùr was discovered to have a genetic match with a group of North American and Eurasian wolves that lived around 86,700 and 67,500 years ago and is not connected to the modern wolves that are currently roaming the area.

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