Fossilized remains found in 1973 in the Yukon and recently analyzed show that the territory was populated 8 to 9 million years ago by ancient rhinos and turtles.
These rhinos were about two meters high and three meters long. They were certainly among the largest animals that lived in North America at the time.
Yukon’s paleontologist Grant Zazula says this northern presence shows how different the climate was at the time.
It was probably much more like some parts of the southern United States, where there are marshes that do not freeze throughout the year.
“It had to be special, since it was really darker during the winter, which is a very interesting situation for these animals,” says Zazula.
The remains were uncovered by Joan Hodgins, a 22-year-old teacher who was hiking with her students.
A fertile territory with fossils
“In the Yukon, we could completely fill ice age mammal fossil trucks like woolly mammoths, old horses and lions,” “says paleontologist Grant Zazula.
This is the first time that we have evidence of the presence of ancient mammals, such as rhinos, before the ice age.
During the tertiary period, which began after the extinction of the dinosaurs and ended about 2.6 million years ago, a land bridge connected what is today Siberia and Alaska.
Paleontologists believe that animals of all kinds, including mammoths and rhinos, used this bridge.
Carapaces similar to those of some Galapagos turtle species have also been correctly identified.
The present works are published in the American Museum Novitates magazine .