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The Giant Beaver - new clues about its extinction
The beaver is one of Canada's major national animal icons, symbolizing hard work, eagerness, and the fur trade with indigenous peoples. For over 70 years, the beaver has also been embossed on the Canadian nickel coin.

Prior to 10,000 year ago, there was a much larger cousin of the smaller modern beaver that ranged throughout most of North America. The Giant Beaver was one of numerous megafaunal animals that went extinct near the end of the last ice age. Their last place of refuge seems to be just south of the Great Lakes region in southern Ontario.

New research has discovered that the giant beaver (Castoroides) did not have the same diet as the modern beaver, and did not eat trees or construct niches for itself using wood. The giant beaver seemed to rely solely on aquatic plants and ponds for its survival. As the ice age receded, most of these ponds dried up, leaving very few refugia habitats left for the giant beaver to live. This suggests an important role for climate as a factor in its extinction.


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