A woman, who found pieces of tiny teeth and bone along a trail in Yukon almost 50 years ago, recently had them identified as the remains of an ancient rhinoceros.
As reported by the Canadian Press, Joan Hodgins was participating in an outdoor program near Whitehorse in 1973 when she found the items and placed them into plastic bags.
“I’m not what you’d call a hoarder but I keep things like that,” Hodgins told CP.
Many years later in 1998, Hodgins took the bags to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. She gave them to an employee who was heading to Yukon where they were included in the territory’s fossil collections.
Palaeontologists say her donated items belong to a rhinoceros and two species of turtle that roamed the land about eight million years ago.
A study based on the discovery was published Thursday in the journal American Museum Novitates.
Grant Zazula a co-author of the research said that the rhino would have been about three metres long and a few metres tall, comparable to the black rhino in South Africa.
Using a tool that analyzes the structure of the tooth enamel, researchers found that the rhinoceros lived in Yukon when it was much warmer.
Zazula estimates that both animals would have gone extinct about four million years ago when the weather started to cool and they weren’t able to feed off of leaves from the trees anymore.
He adds that this finding helps fill in the gap regarding the evolution of species in the Yukon and the Arctic.
“It’s really exciting to learn about this time period, especially in the North where there’s a lot of concern about global warming and what are the kind of changes that are going to happen in the landscape,” he said.