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57,000-year-old wolf puppy found frozen in Canada’s permafrost – Global News

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WARNING: This story contains images some may find disturbing. Discretion is advised.

A mummified wolf puppy has been found in Yukon Territory, where it was perfectly preserved in the permafrost for an estimated 57,000 years.

The puppy mummy is “100 per cent intact” and offers an unprecedented glimpse into the lives of ancient wolves, according to a new study published Monday in Cell Biology. The puppy was likely six to eight weeks old when its wolf den caved in on top of it, trapping it under the frozen earth and transforming it into a mummy over many millennia.

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Spinosaurus tail shows ‘Jurassic Park III’ dinosaur was a swimming ‘monster’

The animal was a grey wolf (Canis lupus) akin to those alive today, though it lived a different life from modern wolves, according to the study.

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Scientists in the U.S. and Canada have named the mummy Zhur, which means “wolf” in the language of the local Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people.

“Zhur is unique because mummified bodies with preserved hair, skin and flesh like this are incredibly rare from North America,” said Grant Zazula, a paleontologist with the government of Yukon.

Gold miners discovered the mummy while they were melting a wall of permafrost with water near Dawson City in 2016. The corpse was trapped in the frozen mud.

A mummified wolf pup is shown after it was found by gold miners near Dawson City, Yukon, in July 2016.


A mummified wolf pup is shown after it was found by gold miners near Dawson City, Yukon, in July 2016.


Government of Yukon

“She’s the most complete wolf mummy that’s ever been found,” lead study author Julie Meachen told EurekAlert.

Meachen is an anatomy professor at Des Moines University in Iowa and played a major role in determining the animal’s age.

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“The fact that she’s so complete allowed us to do so many lines of inquiry on her to basically reconstruct her life,” she said.

Researchers spent four years studying the mummy in detail to determine its age, diet and cause of death.

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They were surprised to learn that Zhur ate a lot of fish, when they’d expected oxen and bison to play a larger role in its diet. Zhur’s genes revealed that it was a descendant of the ancient wolves that once roamed Alaska and Siberia. However, the wolf is likely not a direct ancestor of grey wolves living in the region today.

Researchers also determined that the pup was likely alone in the den when it died, and that it was probably a quick death. The cold temperatures and soil would have been perfect for creating the mummy, they say.

It’s extremely rare to find a mummified wolf in the Yukon, but millennia-old mummies are becoming increasingly common in the once-frigid parts of the world due to climate change. In Siberia, for example, melting permafrost has revealed many woolly mammoths and other Ice Age corpses in recent years.


Click to play video 'Permafrost melting faster than scientists can study it'



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Permafrost melting faster than scientists can study it


Permafrost melting faster than scientists can study it – May 3, 2019

“One of the consequences of climate change in the Arctic is that more of these mummies will be found in the future,” Meachen said in a video released with the study.

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“And while this is really interesting for science, it highlights one of the problems of global warming, and we need to take action now to save this planet and all of its treasures.”

Zhur is currently on permanent display at the Yukon’s Beringia Interpretive Centre in Whitehorse.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Paleontologists finally have their first good look at a dinosaur butthole – CNET

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Here’s a digital reconstruction of a Psittacosaurus dinosaur illustrating how the cloacal vent may have been used for signaling during courtship.


Bob Nicholls/Paleocreations.com 2020

Paleontologists spend their entire academic careers studying the anatomy of dinosaurs. Now a team of scientists from the University of Bristol has finally described in detail a dinosaur’s cloacal or vent, which is used for everything from defecation and urination to attracting a mate to breed with (or, less scientifically, a jack-of-all-trades butthole).

In a new study, published in the journal Current Biology on Tuesday, Scientists revealed a range of theories about the cloacal vent on a dog-sized dinosaur called Psittacosaurus, a relative of Triceratops from the early Cretaceous era, which lived about 120 million years ago.

“I noticed the cloaca several years ago after we had reconstructed the color patterns of this dinosaur using a remarkable fossil on display at the Senckenberg Museum in Germany which clearly preserves its skin and color patterns,” Dr. Jakob Vinther from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences said in a statement on Tuesday. 

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A closer look at the preserved cloacal vent in Psittacosaurus.


Dr Jakob Vinthe

“It took a long while before we got around to finish it off because no one has ever cared about comparing the exterior of cloacal openings of living animals, so it was largely unchartered territory,” Vinther added.

The researchers reveal the dinosaur’s cloaca has similar features as cloacas on alligators and crocodiles. The dino’s outer cloaca areas were also likely highly pigmented. This pigmentation may have been used to attract a mate, much like baboons use theirs.

“We found the vent does look different in many different groups of tetrapods, but in most cases, it doesn’t tell you much about an animal’s sex.” Dr. Diane Kelly from the University of Massachusetts Amherst said. “Those distinguishing features are tucked inside the cloaca, and unfortunately, they’re not preserved in this fossil.”

It’s not just the appearance of the dino’s vent that got the attention of mates, but also its smell. The large, pigmented lobes on either side of the cloacas could have also included musky scent glands to get the attention of a mate.

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A Psittacosaurus specimen from Senckenberg Museum of Natural History —  preserving skin and pigmentation patterns and the first, and only known, cloacal vent.


Jakob Vinther, University of Bristol and Bob Nicholls/Paleocreations.com 2020

“Knowing that at least some dinosaurs were signaling to each other gives palaeo-artists exciting freedom to speculate on a whole variety of now plausible interactions during dinosaur courtship,” palaeo-artist and study artist Robert Nicholls said in a statement. 

“It is a game-changer!” 

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Satellogic signs multi-launch contract with SpaceX – SpaceNews

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WASHINGTON — Earth observation company Satellogic announced Jan. 19 it signed a contract with SpaceX covering several rideshare launches of its satellites through next year.

The multiple launch services agreement makes SpaceX Satellogic’s preferred provider for launching its constellation of microsatellites, after previously relying on Chinese, European and Russian vehicles, including a launch of 10 satellites as the primary payload on a Long March 6 Nov. 5.

In an interview, Emiliano Kargieman, chief executive of Satellogic, said the low prices and frequent launch opportunities that SpaceX offered led his company to sign up. “The new rideshare program that SpaceX has put together has reduced the price on the order of four or five times on a per-kilogram basis,” he said. “That really made the rideshare program compete very well in the market and it caused us to start having conversations with SpaceX.”

Satellogic plans to conduct its next four launches with SpaceX, starting in June. Additional launches will take place in December and in March and June of 2022. All will be rideshare missions going to sun-synchronous orbits, with at least four satellites on the June launch. The company, which has 13 operational satellites currently, projects having a constellation of about 60 satellites by the end of 2022 or early 2023.

The company also has the option of flying satellites as rideshare payloads on Starlink missions. Those would go to mid-inclination orbits, which Kargieman said would complement the bulk of the constellation in sun-synchronous orbits. “They give us more diversity in times for revisits for points of interest,” he said, noting the company has one satellite in such an orbit. “We are looking into deploying more mid-inclination satellites over the next 12–18 months, but we have not yet decided exactly when those launches are going to be.”

Another benefit of the agreement, he said, is the flexibility it offers in determining how many satellites to fly, as well as options for flying satellites on Starlink missions. “It gives us the possibility of making those decisions closer to the launch date.”

While SpaceX is Satellogic’s preferred launch provider, Kargieman did not rule out occasionally using other providers. “Because we might need some particular orbit, we might still decide to launch a dedicated rocket every once in a while to make sure we have the satellites where we want them,” he said.

Satellogic is seeing strong demand for the high-resolution imagery its satellites produce, he said, with that demand accelerating in the last year from government customers in particular. “On the government side it’s very clear that there is significant unsatisfied demand,” he said. “The pandemic has accelerated the demand for Earth observation data and geospatial analytics.”

That demand was a key factor in the decision to select SpaceX, with its launch services allowing Satellogic to accelerate deployment of its constellation. “That’s a good point to invest more,” Kargieman said. “We’re feeling strongly that this is a time for us to double down, scale and continue to bring this data to market at an affordable cost.”

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The only preserved dinosaur butthole fossil is ‘one-of-a-kind’ – ZME Science

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Psittacosaurus may have used its ‘unique’ butthole for signaling during courtship, besides its primary obvious purpose. Credit: Bob Nicholls/Paleocreations.com 2020.

It’s amazing how much scientists have been able to learn about the secret lives of dinosaurs, creatures that went extinct more than 65 million years ago, just by studying their fossilized remains. Obviously, there are still a lot of loose ends owed to incomplete fossil records and due to the fact that many anatomical features rarely, if not never, fossilize. This is why scientists are excited about the first truly preserved dinosaur cloacal vent, the scientific name for the terminal end of the gastrointestinal tract in birds and amphibians, aka the butthole.

But this isn’t a butthole like any other. Speaking to Live Science, Jakob Vinther, a paleontologist at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, said that the dinosaur cloaca he studied isn’t like that of birds. It more closely resembles that of crocodiles, with two small bulges in proximity to the cloaca which might have had musky scent glands with a possible role in courtship. However, in many respects, the dinosaur cloaca was quite unique.

The oldest cloaca in the world was found sitting in a fossil display case in the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, and belonged to a beaked, dog-sized dinosaur called Psittacosaurus.

A cloaca isn’t your typical butthole. It serves as an anus, in that it is the orifice through which waste ultimately exits the body after its journey through the intestinal tract. But the orifice, whose name comes from the Latin word for ‘sewer’, also plays a role in copulation and the extrusion of offspring or eggs.

The fossilized orifice was flattened over millions of years until it was unearthed from a basin in China decades ago. While working on a different study, Vinther was shocked to find that Psittacosaurus‘ posterior was intact after all these years and immediately enlisted colleagues to reconstruct it in 3-D. His team includes Robert Nicholls, a paleoartist, and Diane Kelly, a biologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who specializes in the evolution of genitalia.

The fossilized vent, top, and the authors’ reconstruction of it. Credit…J. Vinther, R. Nicholls and D. Kelly, Current Biology 2021

To reconstruct the dinosaur cloaca, the team had to study hundreds of preserved rear ends, from amphibians to chickens. Judging from these references and the fossils at their disposal, the researchers believe that Psittacosaurus‘ cloaca was flanked by a pair of dark-colored flaps of skin, which seems to be different from any living group known to science.

It’s exceedingly rare to find dinosaur soft tissue, so it’s no surprise that the cloaca’s interior couldn’t be analyzed. But if the dinosaur’s posterior was anything like that of crocodiles, its cloaca likely housed a penis or clitoris.

And fitting enough, the cloaca fossil was found next to a fossilized lump of feces, suggesting that the dinosaur was defecating when it suddenly succumbed and its fossils became locked in time. “It’s quite nice to find it, right near where it’s supposed to come out,” Vinther told The New York Times.

The findings were described in the journal Current Biology.

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