2
Facebook
Volume 91 Issue 10 | p. 29 | Concentrates
Issue Date: March 11, 2013

Ancient Arctic Camels Unearthed

Amazingly preserved ancient collagen in camel bones reveals these mammals once lived in the far North
Department: Science & Technology | Collection: Critter Chemistry
News Channels: Analytical SCENE, Biological SCENE
Keywords: archeology, camels, collagen
[+]Enlarge
These bones, found in Canada’s Arctic, were identified as originating from a camel leg by the collagen preserved inside.
Credit: Martin Lipman
09110-scicon-camelfossilcxd
 
These bones, found in Canada’s Arctic, were identified as originating from a camel leg by the collagen preserved inside.
Credit: Martin Lipman
[+]Enlarge
Three-and-a-half million years ago, the Arctic was a boreal forest where camels roamed, as shown in this rendering.
Credit: Julius Csotonyi
09110-scicon-camelcxd
 
Three-and-a-half million years ago, the Arctic was a boreal forest where camels roamed, as shown in this rendering.
Credit: Julius Csotonyi

Three-and-a-half million years ago, camels roamed the Arctic. This bizarre pairing of mammal and habitat was deduced by analyzing ancient collagen proteins preserved in bone fragments found by Natalia Rybczynski, a paleontologist with the Canadian Museum of Nature (Nat. Comm., DOI: 10.1038/ncomms2516). When Rybczynski found the bones on Ellsmere Island in Canada’s Arctic, she thought they looked like the lower leg bone of a large mammal but wasn’t sure which one. She asked Michael Buckley from Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, in En­gland, to compare the ancient bone’s collagen protein sequence with those from a variety of known species. The sequence best matched that of modern camels, as well as a camel ancestor from the Yukon, about 1,200 km (745 miles) south of the Arctic Circle. The team also worked with Dalhousie University’s John C. Gosse to date the bones by measuring the radio­active decay of beryllium and aluminum in the layers of sand where the bones were found. Cold temperatures made possible in part the collagen’s remarkable preservation for 3.5 million years. However, when camels lived on Ellsmere Island, Earth was 2–3 °C warmer than it is now, and the Arctic was a forest rather than a frozen landscape.

 
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © American Chemical Society