Category Archives: Paleaobotany

Your Daily Bread

By Jimmy Breen

Wheat is one of the major parts of human diet for most of the world’s population, despite the fact it (and other gluten-containing foods) tend to get a bum rap nowadays due to food-based gluten intolerance in western societies. Travel the world and, on most continents, there’s a good chance that you’ll encounter a big pile of bread (in some form) on the dinner table. Particularly in Westerner/European culture, bread is everywhere, from pastries and pies to flatbreads and baguettes. Beyond wheat, other grains also feature highly in our diets: oats and barley, for example. The wide-spread presence of grain-based foods in modern diets today is due, in part, to our human cultural evolution. Continue reading


A “gold mine” within a gold mine

by Tim Rabanus-Wallace and Julien Soubrier

Recently, we had the opportunity to collect frozen bone remains directly from the permafrost in Canada, as part of our research on the evolution of flora and megafauna throughout the climate variations of the late Pleistocene (~10 to 100 thousand years ago). The two of us, along with ACAD director, Alan Cooper, travelled to the gold rush city of Dawson in the Yukon, where a few families are still mining for gold in the frozen soil. To reach the gold-rich layers, miners are using high-pressure water to accelerate the natural thawing of the permafrost, uncovering numerous fossil bones (our gold mine!) in the process. Most of these bones are from large mammals who were grazing in the steppes of the Berigian region a few millennia ago: mammoths, horses, and bison; though the burrows of ancient squirrels also survive, with fascinating plant material inside. Continue reading