Frozen fur ball turns out to be a 30,000-year-old Ice Age squirrel.

If the funny and hyperactive Scratch squirrel from the Ice Age movie saga was real, we might find it in this photograph or at least one of its kind.

Paleontologists from Yukon, Canada, have revealed the discovery of a mummified Arctic ground squirrel from the Ice Age, estimated to be about 30,000 years old. The small animal was found in 2018 by a miner in the frosty depths near Hester Creek in the Klondike goldfields. According to experts, it appears to have died while sleeping, in a curled-up position as if it were hibernating.

At first glance, it looks like a fur ball, but upon closer inspection, we can distinguish its legs, nails, head, and tail in an exceptionally preserved state.

Whitehorse veterinarian Dr. Jess Heath X-rays the squirrel, ‘Hester.’ (Government of Yukon)

The deceased rodent has been identified as an Arctic ground squirrel, a species that still inhabits Yukon today. Its body has been kept in excellent condition due to being trapped in permafrost, which preserved it perfectly like a prehistoric refrigerator.

Dr. Grant Zazula, a Yukon government paleontologist, said that the animal is especially interesting to study, as unlike mammoths or Scimitar cats, Arctic ground squirrels survived in Yukon after the Ice Age.

Through an X-ray examination, it was seen that the animal’s bone structure was in excellent condition and its curled-up position suggests that it died in its sleep. Perhaps the animal was settling down to hibernate for the winter in its burrow, but became snowed under and perished.

The discovery was revealed by the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre, who shared their amazement on social media: “It’s amazing to think that this little guy was running around the Yukon several thousand years ago,” they said.

The X-ray showed a solid bone structure inside the curled-up form. (Government of Yukon)

The Arctic ground squirrel species is interesting for paleontologists as it is resilient and has survived numerous climate changes over time. Experts hope that studying it will help understand how animals survive and adapt to long-term environmental changes.

The animal’s skeleton will be displayed at the Beringia Interpretive Centre in Whitehorse, Yukon, alongside other frozen Ice Age creatures such as a mummified black-footed ferret. The paleontologists have decided to name the animal “Hester,” in honor of the place where it was found.

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Acerca de Alejandra Galaz

Divulgadora de la Ciencia y productora de videos. Me apasiona conocer y compartir los últimos avances en la ciencia y tecnología en especial temas de medicina. Soy médico cirujano de profesión, pero mi verdadera vocación es curar y crear contenido educativo.

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