18,000-Year-Old Frozen Puppy Found in Permafrost

By Doug Williams
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Photo credit:  Centre for Palaeogenetics
Photo credit: Centre for Palaeogenetics
 
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After a closer look, the paws and head of a puppy were seen. In the summer of 2018, an inhabitant of Sakha Republic in Eastern Russia found a muddy ice ball in the melting permafrost near Indigirka River.

 

The ice ball was taken to authorities who, after cleaning off the mud and ice, discovered the almost perfectly preserved specimen of either a wolf or a dog pup that had been frozen in the ice for over eighteen thousand years.

Dogor, as the small specimen was named, had the majority of his fur, intact milk teeth and gums, a perfect nose, whiskers, and toenails and looks as though he is just taking a nap.

 

He is somewhat flexible as scientists are able to lift his lips to reveal his teeth and move his paws about a bit. Even the pads of his feet are mostly intact.

His underside looks as though he is just waiting for a belly rub. A small area where there was no fur revealed part of his spine and ribs, so researchers sent one of the ribs to a laboratory in Sweden to be studied, Metro tells us.

The 18k puppy Centre for Palaeogenetics
The 18k puppy Centre for Palaeogenetics

The animal was found in a tunnel dug out of the earth which is most likely why he is in such good condition.

Dave Stanton, from the Department of Bioinformatics and Genetics, Swedish Museum of Natural History and Pontus Skoglund, a Swedish population geneticist at the Francis Crick Institute and previously from Harvard Medical School.

They have taken DNA samples and discovered that the pup was only two months old when he died in unknown circumstances. The problem is that genetic testing has not revealed if the animal is a dog or a wolf or perhaps a link between the two, according to The Siberian Times.

Love Dalén, a professor of evolutionary genetics commented that, despite the Swedish Centre for Paleogenetics having the largest collection of canine DNA in Europe, the first tests have yet to reveal whether the specimen is a dog or wolf.

Stanton and Skoglund have sequenced the pup’s genome to 2X coverage but are still unable to determine its ancestry.

Metro quotes Dalén saying, “One reason why it might be difficult to say is because this one is right there at the divergence time so it could be a very early modern wolf or very early dog or a late Pleistocene wolf.

If it turns out to be a dog, I would say it is the earliest confirmed dog.”

In 2015, a frozen Pleistocene era puppy that had active RNA was found on a steep bank of the River Syalakh near Tumat in the Sakha Republic, according to Sci-News. RNA is usually short lived as opposed to DNA which can survive for millenniums.

When the RNA found in the liver and muscle tissue was tested by Dr. Oliver Smith and his colleagues of Copenhagen University, they found the fourteen thousand three hundred year old animal had corresponding genome samples from two members of the canis lupus family, dogs and wolves.

The animal was discovered close to an area found to have been used by humans. Parts of the brain were also still viable for research, and Digital Journal reported that Dr. Artemiy Goncharov.

Who is head of the research laboratory of the Department of Epidemiology, Parasitology, and Desinfectology at the Northwestern State Medical University in St. Petersburg.

And they are comparing bacteria from the surrounding area with that which was found in the puppy’s intestines to hopefully discover ancient bacteria and if these animals suffered from parasites such as fleas or ticks.

In 2011, another puppy, probably a littermate to the later Tumat discovery, was found in the same area but was not preserved as well as its brother.

The two are hypothesized to have been pets because of their close proximity to human tool artifacts and evidence of fire and cooking. It is believed the two were killed in a landslide.

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Now, with the discovery of an even older canine, scientists may be able to learn more about canine history and evolution.

 
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