Researchers have unearthed a pair of fossilized teeth on the BLM land in northeast Oregon, which suggest that beaver has changed very little in the last 7 million years.
These teeth come from the Rattlesnake Formation and are between 7 and 7.3 million years old, according to National Park Service (NPS) news release.
The interesting thing is that the fossil teeth found near Dayville, OR, are almost identical to living beaver teeth, showing that the animal has changed very little in the last seven million years.
“This indicates that their appearance and role in the environment would have been the same in the past,” according to NPS researchers.
An article describing the new discovery was published in the current issue of the Journal of Paleontology.
“Worldwide, the earliest true beaver, as we would think of them today, comes from Germany, about 10 to 12 million years ago. These beavers then spread across Asia, and eventually crossed the Bering Land Bridge to North America, NPS adds.
The new finding helps resolve when beavers dispersed to North America from Asia, and when the two living species, the North American Castor canadensis and Eurasian Castor fiber, diverged.
The previous records of living beavers in North America show that they came from Nebraska ,California and northern Oregon, around five million years ago. It is only fitting that the earliest modern beavers are found in Oregon, since Oregon is the Beaver State; the beaver is the Oregon state animal, and the mascot of Oregon State University.
The specimens will be going on display in the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.