Camels in the Arctic?

Normally when we think of camels and their habitats, we think of dry sandy deserts where there’s little water and lots of heat. We wouldn’t associate them with other habitats, such as the frigid Canadian Arctic… or would we?

Recently, a research team led by the Canadian Museum of Nature has discovered evidence that an extinct species of giant camels used to live in Canada’s Far North nearly 3.5 million years ago! Over the summers of 2006, 2008 and 2010, the team has uncovered fragments of fossils on Nunavut’s Ellesmere Island, in a site where other fossils of prehistoric mammals have been found, which include a badger, a deerlet, a beaver, and a three-toed horse. These fossils help determine the type of environment in which the animals lived in during that time – a boreal forest, during a warm phase on the planet when temperatures in the Arctic were around 15 degrees higher than they are today!

Some thirty bone fragments have been uncovered, and were part of a limb bone of a giant camel. This is now the northernmost record of camels living on the Earth; their ancestors have been known to have originated in North America before migrating to other parts of the world, but none have ever been found so far north until now. Who knows, maybe later on we’ll have a complete fossil of a giant camel from Canada?

For more info, see the Canadian Museum of Nature website: http://www.nature.ca/en/about-us/museum-news/news/press-releases/remains-extinct-giant-camel-discovered-high-arctic-canadian

Picture from http://www.nature.ca/en/about-us/museum-news/news/press-releases/remains-extinct-giant-camel-discovered-high-arctic-canadian
illustrated by Julius Csotonyi

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