Yukon - May 28, 2021 - Snowing
Throughout Yukon’s short intense summer months, fossil bones, teeth and skeletons are released from the frozen ground, from Herschel Island to the goldfield of the Klondike. This frozen ground, or permafrost,
provides a window into life during the Ice Age. New fossils continually reveal incredible stories of ancient mammals that once called Yukon home
The Most Abundant Ice Age Yukon Fossils
In some parts of Yukon, the permafrost is nearly a graveyard of ancient bones of steppe bison. Over 80 per cent of the fossil mammal bones from the Klondike gold mines are from steppe bison. Part of why scientists know so much about steppe bison is because, like the woolly mammoth, mummified carcasses have been found. One of the most famous ice age carcasses is that of 36,000 year old “Blue Babe” that was discovered at a gold mine near Fairbanks, Alaska in 1979. Blue Babe had a spectacular blue color because its preserved skin was covered by the mineral vivianite. Thick tufts of preserved reddish brown fur indicate these bison were well insulated for the cold
ice age climates.
Both Wooller and Funck described the Yukon’s collection of fossilized steppe bison horns as unique in the world, both in terms of the sheer number of specimens and how well-preserved many of them are. The number, in particular, is especially helpful when it comes to projects that involve “destructive” analysis, they said, and ones trying to collect population-wide data.
Stowe Creek Specimens
Elk & Caribou
Yukon’s Long History of Caribou
The world’s oldest known caribou remains were found in the Fort Selkirk region of central Yukon, dating back to 1.6 million years ago. Of the many ice age caribou bones, teeth and antlers recovered in Yukon, there are three particularly important specimens. Each of these three fossils—a lower leg bone and a fragment of an antler recovered from the Old Crow Basin, and another antler fragment from the Dawson City region—show clear evidence of human use.