Hyenas Lived In Canada's Arctic Region During Ice Age

Before they were the sneaky, thieving baddies banished in the outlands of Disney’s Lion King, hyenas once roamed the cold Arctic grounds of Canada, a new study has revealed.

According to two fossilized teeth initially found in Canada back in the 1970s, hyenas used to have colder stomping grounds in North America before they eventually used the Bering land bridge to reach the savannahs of Asia and Africa.

Per the findings of the scientists that were published in Open Quaternary, the teeth belonged to members of the extinct genus Chasmaporthetes, which have unusually long legs and are nicknamed “running hyenas” because of this physical trait. These animals can sprint like wolves and this could be the reason why they were able to make the trip from America to Asia. At present, there are still remains of running hyenas that can be found in Central Mexico and across the southern part of the United States.

“This new Arctic find puts a dot right in the middle of that,” said Jack Tseng, a paleontologist at the University at Buffalo in New York. “It actually confirms previous hypotheses about how hyenas got to the New World.”

Before this discovery, information was scarce, and there was a more than 10,000-kilometer gap that lay between them and their closest relatives, which are in Mongolia.

Per Tseng, the recovered teeth date back to between 850,000 to 1.4 million years ago. This places them during the Pleistocine Ice Age, the last one Earth went through. Based on the findings, these carnivores may have spent most of their time hunting camels, caribous, horses and maybe even some mammoths.

“Hyena are one of the groups with a really patchy fossil record in North America. This finding adds to our knowledge of how the species came over,” said paleontologist Julie Meachen of Des Moines University in Iowa who was not involved in the study.

After getting originally dug up in the Old Crow Basin in the Yukon at a site nicknamed the “supermarket of fossils,” the unearthed teeth lay among other specimens in the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, where they stayed for decades.

hyena A Somali awareness campaign is advocating changes to the public perception of mental health in a nation where the mentally ill are thrown in cages with hyenas. DemianPZ, CC BY 2.0