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.
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
University of Colorado at Boulder
Ancient rhinos roamed the Yukon (2019, October 31)
retrieved 31 October 2019
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