30,000-Year-Old Baby Mammoth Is The Most Preserved Mammoth Ever Found in America
A 30,000-year-old baby mammoth has been discovered perfectly preserved in permafrost in the far reaches of Canada’s northwest Yukon province. Covered in skin and patches of hair, the Yukon baby mammoth is being called the most complete example ever discovered in North America!
The Yukon Big Baby Mammoth: Archaeological Gold!
The rare Yukon baby mammoth was discovered by a group of miners working in the Klondike gold fields on the tribal lands of the indigenous Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin band.
The Yukon region is perhaps best known for the Klondike Gold Rush, a wild mining boom that lasted from 1896 to 1899, when 100,000 prospectors from all over descended this part of Canada and Alaska.
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The Yukon’s female baby mammoth calf, which was naturally mummified in permafrost, has been named “Nun cho ga,” which in the Hän language means “big baby animal.” The Hän, is a Northern Athabaskan language spoken by the Hän Hwëch'in tribes of Canada and Alaska.
For many years Lyuba, a female woolly mammoth baby, who died circa 41,800 years ago in Russia, was the best preserved mammoth mummy in the world, a title now held by the mammoth called Yuka. (Matt Howry / CC BY 2.0 )
The Yukon Baby Mammoth: A Prince Among Giants
Dr Grant Zazula is a Yukon paleontologist. According to a report in Daily Mail Grant has been waiting “all his life” to be involved with the discovery of a real woolly mammoth. Speaking of the discovery of “Nun cho ga,” Grant said the creature “is beautiful… one of the most incredible mummified ice age animals ever discovered in the world.” Tyler Murchie is an archaeologist specializing in ancient DNA at McMaster University. Speaking with Gizmodo, Murchie said when he heard about the discovery he thought there “may be cool stuff inside.”
Murchie’s team analyzed the mammoth's DNA revealing “the fluctuating animal and plant communities at different time points during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition,” 11,000 to 14,000 years ago. It was at this time that saber-toothed cats, mastodons and mammoths went extinct.
The DNA study determined that the baby mammoth lived alongside “ wild horses , cave lions and giant steppe bison.”
So well preserved is this ancient creature that photographs show patches of skin on the 30,000-year-old carcass. Furthermore, wear and tear marks can still be seen on the baby mammoth’s hoofs.
An illustration of a herd of woolly mammoths grazing in the early morning frost. ( auntspray / Adobe Stock)
Mammoths Were Still Around 5,000 Years Ago
While the last of the woolly mammoths died around 11000 BC in southern climes a 2021 study showed that they still existed in the Earth’s northern climes up to 5,000 years ago, in a period of time known as the mid-Holocene. Moreover, it is no longer a widespread belief that mammoths went extinct through overhunting. The current thinking is that climate change wiped these creatures out.
During the Last Glacial Maximum, the so-called “Mammoth Steppe,” was the Earth's most extensive biome spanning from Spain across Eurasia to Canada, and from China in the south to arctic islands in the north. The mammoth steppe was cold, rich grassland, but it slowly became overrun with moss and shrubs that couldn’t support the high carb demands of large horses, bison and mammoths.
A Mammoth Discovery For Climatology
According to ScienceABC the mammoth steppe ecosystem was only “partially dependent” on climate. Thousands of grazing giant herbivores maintained the pastures by trampling on shrubs and mosses and seeds were propagated and fertilized via their own nutritious dung. This cycle assured that even during the coldest period of the last Ice Age the ecosystem was able to sustain huge populations of large herbivores.
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After 100,000 years of braving severe climatic changes the mammoth steppe eventually got warmer causing the last of Earth’s iconic ancient mammal giants to vanish from the face of the Earth.
Therefore, when baby mammoths are discovered in such good condition as this one, scientists are able to map the effects of climate change on ancient populations of animals and humans, which, in turn, could help us negotiate climate change in the future.
Top image: The skin-on Yukon baby mammoth that is now the most complete mammoth specimen ever found in North America! Source: Government of Yukon
By Ashley Cowie