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Fossils of Gaint Camel Ancestor Discovered In Northern Canada

March 5, 2013
Image Caption: Illustration of the High Arctic camel on Ellesmere Island during the Pliocene warm period, about three and a half million years ago. The camels lived in a boreal-type forest. The habitat includes larch trees and the depiction is based on records of plant fossils found at nearby fossil deposits. Credit: Julius Csotonyi

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

Researchers have discovered the fossilized remains of a giant prehistoric species of camel in the far northern regions of Canada, suggesting that the modern versions of these hoofed creatures are descended from ancestors which lived within the Arctic Circle.

A team led by paleontologist Dr. Natalia Rybczynski of the Canadian Museum of Nature found 30 fossil fragments of a leg bone on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, during the summers of 2006, 2008 and 2010. According to the museum, the bones are approximately 3.5 million years old, meaning that they date back to the mid-Pliocene Epoch.

Rybczynski and co-authors Dr. John Gosse at Dalhousie University, Halifax and Dr. Mike Buckley at the University of Manchester published their findings in the March 5 edition of the journal Nature Communications.

They took collagen from the bones of the fossils and compared it to that of other fossils and modern mammals. The protein analysis confirmed that the ancient bones were a direct ancestor of the camel, Buckley told BBC News on Tuesday.

Jennifer Viegas of Discovery News, reported that this is the farthest north that camel remains have ever been discovered.

Previously, similar fossils had been found approximately 745 miles south of the current find´s location, reported Nick Collins, Science Correspondent with The Telegraph.

This ancient camel was a close relative of a fossil genus known as Paracamelus, and the bones also suggest that this type of camel is approximately 30 percent larger than modern ones. More specifically, that means they measured approximately 11 feet tall. They also had only one hump, which was used to store fat in order to help them survive Arctic conditions, though the region was not as frigid then as it is now.

The researchers believe that the creature would have been similar in appearance to current camels, although it might have had a thicker coat in order to keep warm.

“This is an important discovery because it provides the first evidence of camels living in the High Arctic region. It extends the previous range of camels in North America northward by about [750 miles], and suggests that the lineage that gave rise to modern camels may been originally adapted to living in an Arctic forest environment,” Rybczynski said in a statement.

“We now have a new fossil record to better understand camel evolution, since our research shows that the Paracamelus lineage inhabitated northern North America for millions of years, and the simplest explanation for this pattern would be that Paracamelus originated there,” she added. “So perhaps some specializations seen in modern camels, such as their wide flat feet, large eyes and humps for fat may be adaptations derived from living in a polar environment.”


Source: redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online



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