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Prehistoric mammals made odysseys

/ Source: The Associated Press

The skeletal remains of badgers, bears, wolverines, musk deer and even three-toed horses whose descendants are native to modern-day Asia have been found in a prehistoric Canadian peat bog, proving they roamed far and wide in the distant millennia, scientists say.

WRITING IN Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature, the team from the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa said the excavated Beaver Pond on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic territory of Nunavut was more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) north of the modern tree line.

But the species they had found buried in the peat were more usually associated with climates warmer than the present day.

“This deposit contains direct evidence of the composition of an Early Pliocene arctic mammalian fauna during an active period of interchange between Asia and North America,” they wrote, referring to a period between 4 million and 5 million years ago.

“The mammal fauna of the Beaver Pond site is more diverse than that of the modern Arctic tree line and is dominated by Eurasiatic taxa (species),” they added, noting the adaptation of the species to the colder climate as they migrated across what was then a land bridge over the Bering Sea.

They said the peat contained well-preserved tree and plant remains, including tree trunks and branches with beaver teeth marks, indicating early lodge building.

The scientists said most of the mammalian remains in the Beaver Pond have also been found grouped together in Early Pliocene deposits in the Yushe Basin in northeastern China.

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