A University of Victoria student may have identified a rare, to Canada, Merycoidodon. Andrea Valcourt is studying at the Royal BC Museum and believes the 35-million-year-old skull fossil she’s been analyzing is that of a sheep-sized, grazing mammal.
“They have an even amount of hooves like pigs do. Some people have told me they kind of remind them of capybara, their face,” says Valcourt. “They are very common in the [United] States, but for some reason, we haven’t found many up in Canada. This has just confirmed that we do, in fact, have them up past the border.”
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Tooth fragments have been previously found in Saskatchewan, but this nearly complete skull is more definitive proof that Merycoidodon lived above the 49th parallel.
The fossil was originally found in the 1970s in southeastern British Columbia. It has been stored at the Royal BC Museum since then. As part of her studies, Valcourt was tasked with reclassifying the mammal skull using more up-to-date information.
“I’m incredibly thankful for this experience,” Valcourt said, adding that it has inspired her. “Before, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go into paleontology, but I really enjoy studying them, so I’ll be moving on to doing graduate school in paleontology.”
Honours student Valcourt, under the supervision of RBCM paleontologist Victoria Arbour, hopes to publish a paper with her findings sometime next year.