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Ancient Fish and Bering Land Bridge: Toothy Surprise

Jul 20, 2015 05:00 PM EDT
What can ancient fishes tell us?
An ancient pike's sharp teeth reveal secrets about Alaska and the Bering Land Bridge area, versus New York City. The latter was then covered in ice.
(Photo : Wikipedia Commons)

A scientist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks recently found an 8,800-year-old fish tooth in mud taken from an interior Alaska lake. That excavator, Matthew Wooler, who is head of the Alaska Stable Isotope Facility, found a "bunch of bones and very sharp teeth" as he was slicing through a cylinder of mud, according to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute's website.

He took the finding to the UA Museum of the North, also in Fairbanks. Andres Lopez, curator of fishes at the museum told him the teeth and bones were from a northern pike, a wide-billed, needle-toothed super predator, said the Alaska Dispatch News website.

Otherwise in the mud Wooler had found ancient birch and spruce seeds, shells of teensy clams and charcoal bits, which when carbon dated told him the lake formed about 11,000 years ago, the GI website noted.

The scientists extracted DNA from the pike's jaw, showing that it is related to pike that now swim in Eastern Asia and North America in fresh waters, according to the GI website.

At a time when New York City was buried in ice but interior Alaska was not, northern pike were probably swimming in the fresh waters of the Bering Land Bridge lands, as the website said.

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