The remains of a 12,400-year old puppy has been discovered frozen in permafrost on the banks of River Syalakh, near Tumat village in the Sakha Republic. The specimen, which has been confirmed to be a dog – and not a wolf – is speculated to have been someone’s pet because of the discovery of stone tools around the region, suggesting human activity.
For the first time, scientists have been given an opportunity of examining a well-preserved Pleistocene canid. The specimen is believed to be a sibling of another that was discovered back in 2011 and is thought to have been killed in a landslide – before being mummified. Pleistocene is a geological era traversing the repeated glaciations referred to as the last Ice Age. Scientists managed to thaw out and perform autopsy on the ancient puppy
Sergey Fedorov of the North-East Federal University explained that the specimen is preserved from the nose to tail, inclusive of the hair, compared to the previous specimen that was in a more advanced state of decay. The animal’s brain is one of its most fascinating features, and MRI scans have indicated that the brain is 70-80% intact.
A research fellow of the Geological Institute in Moscow, Dr. Pavel Nikolsky, told Siberian Times that the aforementioned brain “has dried out somewhat, but the parencephalon, cerebellum and pituitary gland are visible. We can say that this is the first time we have obtained the brain of a Pleistocene canid.”
To learn more about the diversity of life that existed in Siberia during the Pleistocene, the scientists are also hoping to analyze the parasitic ticks living in the animal’s fur, and the bacteria in its digestive system.
Scientist Hwang Woo- Suk, who has made headlines for wanting to clone several extinct animals, was also present at the site of the discovery. The Korean Professor has been actively involved in efforts to clone woolly mammoths and other extinct features. Hwang took samples of the dogs muscle, cartilage, and skin. He expressed his excitement concerning the level of preservation of the dog’s tissues, and he was delighted that he has added to his list another animal that he hopes to clone. The puppy has a higher possibility of being cloned considering it has a well-preserved brain.
Discovery News has reported, “He’s also building an animal cloning facility in China and has held a dog-cloning competition in the United Kingdom."
According to Hwang, there is a possibility of resurrecting the extinct Tumat dogs. However, that will depend on the tissue and DNA the researchers will extract from the specimen.
Sergey Fedorov remarked, "This puppy is better preserved than the previous one, so we hope to get more new information."
Hwang has not been very successful with his cloning efforts. Therefore, the chances of reviving the Tumat dogs is still slim given Hwang’s history. We will have to wait.
The Head of the research laboratory at the North-Western State Medical University in St Petersburg, Dr Artemiy Goncharov remarked, “‘we took the samples of the ground which surrounded the carcass to find out the bacteria there.”
'Later we will compare them with the bacteria from the puppy's intestines. We hope to find ancient bacteria among them. Also, we took samples to find the parasites - ticks, fleas. We hope to find the parasites which were characteristic for this exact species.