Long before elephants came into existence, it was the mammoths who roamed the earth -- from five million years ago in the Pliocene epoch to the Holocene, that is 4,000 years. Among them was an order called the woolly mammoth, which was the last one to emerge. This ancient species was in the news as per a report in sciencealert.com when a mummified baby woolly mammoth was found in Canada’s Yukon.
This 30,000-year-old female baby mammoth was found by a gold miner in the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin Traditional Territory and has been christened Nun cho ga by the elders of the First Nation Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in elders. The local government’s press release said in the Hän language, it means “big baby animal”.
What makes Nun cho ga a prized find is the fact that she is the most complete mummified mammoth discovered in North America.
Inhabiting the Yukon area, this baby mammoth lived along with giant steppe bison, wild horses and cave lions and she died and became frozen in permafrost during the ice age, more than 30,000 years ago.
Following her discovery by the miner who was excavating dirt, the frozen body was recovered by a team of geologists. The Yukon Government’s palaeontologist Dr. Grant Zazula referring to the find observed that the miner had made the "most important discovery in palaeontology in North America”. He told The Weather Channel, that the calf must have been accompanying the mother and when it strayed a little too far, she got stuck in the mud.
Airing his views, University of Calgary’s Professor Dan Shugar who was member of the group that excavated the woolly mammoth said its unearthing was the "most exciting scientific thing I have ever been part of”. He shared that the creature had been preserved very well and immaculately and pointed out that her hide, hair, trunk, toenails and even intestines along her last meal of grass in it, were all intact.
The media release also stated that Yukon is well-known for having ice age fossils yet such well-preserved ones are hard to come by.
Zazula is quoted in the release as saying: "As an ice age palaeontologist, it has been one of my lifelong dreams to come face to face with a real woolly mammoth. That dream came true today. Nun cho ga is beautiful and one of the most incredible mummified ice age animals ever discovered in the world."
Said to be equal to the size of present day’s African elephants, these woolly mammoths were present about 4,000 years ago till they met their end in the hands of human beings. They were hunted extensively for food while their bones and tusks were used by people for making tools and dwellings and for art.
Till date a debate is raging in the scientific community on whether it was human hunting or change in climate that finally eliminated these giants from the face of earth.