Scientists in Canada said Tuesday, they have found the ancestor of modern camels in Ellesmere Island in northern Canada.
Paleobiologist Natalie Rybczynski said she was researching climate change when she discovered pieces of bone.
"I thought it might be wood," Rybczynski said, "I could see there are no tree rings here. There's pores and the texture was clearly bone."
Rybczynski spent years working with a team of scientists to put the bone fragments together and discovered they were part of a leg bone. After testing the proteins of the bone, they discovered it matched with a modern camel.
The discovery was the first proof that camels lived in the Arctic three and a half million years ago. Scientists had already known camels originated in North America after finding camel fossils in Canada's Yukon territory, but Rybczynski's find is about 750 miles north of what was previously the northernmost camel fossil.
Scientists believe the North American camel disappeared during the last ice age after migrating to warmer places.
Rybczynski said these fossils helped to fill in crucial details about a very different northern environment.
She says Ellesmere Island, which is in the Nunavut territory, was likely considerably warmer and covered by boreal forest 3.5 million years ago when the oversized Arctic camel lived.
She said the winters lasted about six months and the features that enabled the ancient camel to the survive cold winters on Ellesmere, particularly its broad feet and signature hump of fat, also proved equally useful as the species went to desert regions.
Presented by Adam Justice