Ancient ground squirrel mummy found in Canadian Arctic
© RIA Novosti. Vera Kostamo

Ancient ground squirrel mummy found in Canadian Arctic

Canada’s Yukon paleontologists have unveiled an unusual find from the goldfields: a mummified Arctic ground squirrel from the Ice Age.

In 2018, the remains of an Arctic squirrel, or, as it is also called, a Beringian ground squirrel, were found in goldfields near the Klondike River, in the territory of the Tshondaek-Khvachin Indians (northwest Canada). After the discovery, experts took an X-ray, which showed the skeleton of an Arctic squirrel perfectly preserved under its fur and tissues, and curled up into a ball. Apparently, the rodent died while hibernating. It happened about 30,000 years ago during the Ice Age.

X-ray of a squirrel mummy
X-ray of a squirrel mummy.

"It's not quite recognizable until you see these little hands and these claws, and you see a little tail, and then you see ears," said Grant Zazula, a regular Yukon government paleontologist. "I study bones all the time and they're exciting, they're really neat. But when you see an animal that's perfectly preserved, that's 30,000 years old, and you can see its face and its skin and its hair and all that, it's just so visceral. It brings it so to life."

The permafrost mummified the squirrel and preserved it for tens of thousands of years, as if it had been transported in time machine in complete safety.

Zazula thinks squirrels are an especially interesting species to study because unlike mammoths or Scimitar cats, they survived after the Ice Age.