Newsmakers 2019: Giant Prehistoric Beavers

Giant Beavers

Today, Western News presents its 10th annual Newsmakers of the Year – a celebration of some of the people, places and things that shaped the year at this institution. Before we start looking ahead to 2020, join us as we take one last look at 2019. Visit the entire list.

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Western attracted national media attention last spring with the tale of Giant Prehistoric Beavers roaming North America more than 10,000 years ago. This ‘dam’ good research showed these enormous rodents, weighing as much as 100 kg, ate submerged aquatic plants, but not wood – a distinct (and perhaps deadly) divergence from its dentally endowed descendant.

Tessa Plint, a former Western graduate student, now continuing her studies at Heriot-Watt University (U.K.), conducted the research with Fred Longstaffe, Canada Research Chair in Stable Isotope Science.

The pair found the enormous rodents more restrictive diet made them highly dependent on wetland habitat and may have been their downfall when the climate changed from wet to dry.

“Perhaps it’s for the best it went extinct. It’s not exactly something you would want to encounter while swimming in Ontario cottage country,” Plint said.