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Palaeontology

Ancient camels in the Arctic

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Whereas modern camels (Camelus spp.) live in hot, dry regions, their predecessors may have occupied polar forests.

Natalia Rybczynski at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa and her colleagues found fossilized fragments of a large leg bone (pictured) in the Canadian Arctic. Analysis of preserved protein showed that the bone belonged to an extinct giant camel. The remains dated to about 3.5 million years ago, a time when the region was densely forested and considerably warmer than today.

The fossil fragments, which are the northernmost evidence of camels, suggest that camel traits such as wide flat feet and even the iconic hump might have evolved as specializations for living not in the desert, but in the Arctic forest, say the authors.

Nature Commun. 4, 1550 (2013)

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Ancient camels in the Arctic. Nature 495, 145 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/495145d

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