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Ancient rhinos roamed the Yukon



 Ancient rhinos roamed the Yukon
An artist's imagination of an ancient relative of today's rhinoceroses splashing through a stream of turtles and fish in the Yukon. Credit: Julius Csotonyi
            

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973, a teacher named Joan Hodgins took her students on a hike near Whitehorse in Canada's Yukon Territory. In the process, she made history for this chilly region.
                                               

The Mine, Hodgins and Her Students Stumbled across a Few Fragments of Fossil Bits

The ancient fragments of These are the words "Most paleontologists may not have picked them up," said Jaelyn Eberle, a curator of fossil vertebrates at the University of Colorado's Boulder's Museum of Natural History.

But Hodgins did. Now, more than 40 years after the teacher's fateful hike, an international team led by Eberle uses modern technology to identify the origins of those enigmatic fossils.

In a study published today, Eberle and her colleagues report that the fossil tooth fragments likely came from the jaw of a long-extinct cousin of today's rhinoceroses. This article was originally published in 1965.

And it's a first: before the rhino discovery, paleontologists did not find a single fossil vertebrate dating back to this time period in the Yukon

"In the Yukon, we have truckloads of fossil from ice age mammals like woolly mammoths, ancient horses and ferocious lions," said Grant Zazula, a coauthor of the new study and Yukon Government paleontologist. Ancient rhinos roamed the Yukon ” title=”Series of fossils recovered from the Yukon. They are pieces of shells from two different species of turtle (top), a fossil from a relative of a modern pike fish (middle) and two fragments of ancient rhino teeth (bottom). Credit: Grant Zazula”/>

Series of fossils recovered from the Yukon. They are pieces of shells of two different species of turtle (top), a fossil from a relative of a modern pike fish (middle) and two fragments of ancient rhino teeth (bottom). Credit: Grant Zazula
            

To understand why, imagine the Earth during the Tertiary Period, a span of time that began after the dinosaurs went extinct and ended about 2.6 million years ago. In that age, a land bridge called Beringia connected what are today Russia and Alaska.

Paleontologists believe that animals of all sorts, including mammoths and rhinos, poured over that bridge.

There's just one problem: The geology and environment of the Yukon, which is at the center of the mass migration route, is not conducive to the preservation of fossil from land animals.

"We know that a land bridge has been in operation for the past 66 million years, "Eberle said.

In this case, the people at the right place and at the right time were a Yukon school teacher and her students.

When Eberle first saw Hodgins Ancient rhinos roamed the Yukon ” title=”Enamel from a fragment of an ancient rhinoceros tooth as seen under increasing levels of magnification. Credit: Jaelyn Eberle”/>

Enamel from a fragment of an ancient rhinoceros tooth as seen under.

 foss r r r r r Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Whit Whit Whit Whit Whit 196 196 196 196 196 196 196 196 196 increasing levels of magnification. Credit: Jaelyn Eberle
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<p> Then she and her colleagues landed on an idea: [Eberleputoneofthesmallpiecesunderatoolcalledascanningelectronmicroscope</p>
<p> She explained that mammal teeth aren ' t all built alike. The crystals in different types of animals, a bit like a dental fingerprint. [Yukontoothenameltheteamfoundcarriedthetell-talesignsofarhinocerosrelative</p>
<p> "I had not thought that enamel could be so beautiful," Eberle said. </p>
<p> The method is not detailed enough to determine the precise species of rhino. But, it may have been about the same, but it may have been about the same size or less than today's black rhinos and browsing on leaves for sustenance. It also seems to have a horn on its snout. </p>
<p> The group also looks at a collection of fossils found alongside the rhino's tooth chips. They belong to two species of turtle, an ancient deer relative and a pike fish. The discovery of the turtles, in particular, indicated that the Yukon had a warmer and wetter climate than it does today. </p>
<p> Hodgins, now-retired, has been discovered 40 years ago: It's "just said," she said. </p>
<p> Eberle added that the Yukon's newly-discovered rhino residents are a testament to the importance of museums. </p>
<p> "The fact that these specimens were discovered in the Yukon museum collection makes me really want to spend more time in other collections, including at CU Boulder, looking for these kinds of discoveries Eberle said.<br />
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More information:
Jaelyn Eberle et al, The First Tertiary Fossils of Mammals, Turtles, and Fish from Canada's Yukon, American Museum Novitates (2019). DOI: 10.1206 / 3943.1

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