Fossil proves hyenas once roamed Canada's Arctic Plains

This ice age fossil tooth — tucked away for years in the collections of the Canadian Museum of Nature — belonged to the

Modern hyenas are known as hunters and scavengers in Asian and African ecosystems such as the savanna.

Their findings were printed on Tuesday in scientific journal Open Quaternary.

A group of researchers have recognized the enamel, which had been discovered within the Yukon within the Nineteen Seventies, as belonging to hyenas a million years in the past.

Scientists had lengthily hypothesized that they might belong to hyenas.

Previously, Chasmaporthetes fossils had been found as far north as Mongolia in Asia and the southern United States, with no sites in between.

Mr Zazula teamed up with Jack Tseng, an evolutionary biologist with a specialty in hyenas at the University of Buffalo and Lars Werdelin at the Swedish Museum of Natural History.

These fossils motivate join the dots, and verify the hypothesis that they arrived to North The United States from Russian Federation on the Bering Strait, Mr Zazula said.

These teeth that were discovered nearly 50 years ago, remained a mystery to the paleontologists who found them and have never been studied before.

The researchers which studied these teeth found ancient hyenas likely entered North America via Beringia, an area, including Alaska and Yukon Territory, that connected Asia with North America during periods of low sea levels.

Hyenas don't really get much recognition compared to other animals in Africa. These newly described fossils provide the first evidence we have that the ancient carnivores were active in Beringia, the area around the Bering Strait, which once connected present-day Russian Federation and Alaska. The teeth were being kept at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, the place Tseng went to analyze them. This tooth, found in 1977, and one other are the first known hyena fossils found in the Arctic.

"It is incredible to imagine hyenas thriving in the harsh conditions above the Arctic Circle during the Ice Age", said Dr. Grant Zazula, a paleontologist with the Canadian Museum of Nature. (One of the oldest human traces in the Americas is a 15,600-year-old footprint in Chile.) It's unclear why these hyenas disappeared, but it's possible that other voracious ice age carnivores, such as the bone-cracking dog (Borophagus), giant short-faced bear (Arctodus) or hunting-dog-like canid (Xenocyon) took over their habitats and outcompeted them for prey, Tseng said.

'These rare records of hyenas in the Arctic fill in a massive gap in a location where we expected evidence of their crossing between continents, but had no proof until now'.

Extra trying out constructive the age of the fossils to be between 850,000 and 1.4 million years feeble. Given that Chasmaporthetes was a bone crusher too, it likely played a large role in disposing of carcasses in ancient North America, much like vultures do today, Tseng said.

The fossil teeth were collected in the 1970s during paleontological expeditions in the remote Old Crow River region in northern Yukon Territory. The ancient hyena teeth are among tens of thousands of fossils recovered from the region in the last century. "Because (Tseng) is so well-versed in hyena fossils he knew instantly right away what they were". However, these fossils were found to be normal as the climates matched. Intrigued, he hopped in his vehicle and drove the 6 hours from Buffalo to Ottawa in February, the dead of winter.

This further shed light on the vast difference of ancient hyenas to modern ones.

Whether the Bering land bridge was used by extinct hyenas was a topic of discussion among scientists for a long time, since the first fossil was found in America.



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