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Ancient Mammals Wintered in Warm, Dark Arctic

53 million years ago, scientists say the Arctic was a warm, swamp-like environment filled with plants and vegetation. Recent findings suggest a large number of mammals thrived there year round including six months of a dark, Arctic winter.

In a study released in June’s issue of Geology, scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder say through the analyses of carbon and oxygen isotopes in fossil teeth, they uncovered evidence that during the winter, mammals ate twigs, leaf litter and fungi.

The chief author of the study, Jaelyn Eberle says a few types of animals found at that time were hippo-like creatures, rhino-type animals, as well as distant cousins of tapirs, primates, flying lemurs and rodents that “did not migrate” and could with stand “months of continuous darkness.”

Eberle says the findings allow for better understanding and predictions for the impact of global warming today by going back to a period of global warming 53 million years ago.

The study by the University of Colorado at Boulder is published in the June issue of Geology.

To hear VOA’s interview with Jaelyn Eberle click on the link adjacent to this story.