Photo: Paleontologists Discover Fossilized Remains of Giant Arctic Camel
Canadian paleontologists have discovered the fossilized remains of a giant camel that lived in the Arctic some 3.5 million years ago, when the area was a boreal forest during an epoch of global warming.
The 30 fragments of a tibia found on Ellesmere Island in the autonomous territory of Nunavut represent the northernmost fossils ever found of primitive camels, which first appeared in North America some 45 million years ago, said experts who made a study for the Canadian Museum of Nature that was published Tuesday in Nature Communications.
This is an important discovery because it provides the first evidence of camels in Canada’s High Arctic and extends the range of camels in North America 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) to the north, according to the leader of the study, Natalia Rybczynski.
“This is a completely new way of thinking about the traits that we see in camels today,” Rybczynski said.
And that is because, she believes, some specializations seen in modern camels, such as their wide flat feet, large eyes and humps for fat may show they may once have been “northern forest specialists,” with these adaptations derived from living in a polar environment.
The fossils were found during field work in the summers of 2006, 2008 and 2010 in a mound on the site of Fyles Leaf Bed, a sandy deposit near Strathcona Fiord on Ellesmere Island, where plant fossils had been found before but never a mammal.