It’s ‘Amazingly Well Preserved’
An 18,000-year-old puppy could hold the title for “oldest confirmed dog” after it was discovered frozen in ice in a remote area in Northeast Siberia. In summer last year, researchers found the preserved canine in the Siberian permafrost and photos have just been recently shared. They were baffled, to say the least. They weren’t sure whether it’s a dog or a wolf since the DNA tests were unable to specify its species but it did have a full set of teeth. They even submitted samples to the Swedish Centre for Palaeogenetics (CPG) to determine if it’s a dog or wolf cub.
Love Dalén, a professor of evolutionary genetics, said that it looks like a “very recently dead animal” even though it has an exposed rib cage and is thousands of years old. It still has eyelashes, whiskers, and a thick fur. Although Dalén and colleague Dave Stanton studied its rib cage in Sweden, the dog remained in Russia.
Dalén shared: “It was amazingly well preserved even before they cleaned it up. [When we found it] we didn’t know how old it was. They said they found it in a tunnel dug in the permafrost but it happens that things get frozen in there that are only a few hundred years old or even a few decades.
“We were excited about it but we had a healthy dose of scepticism until we radiocarbon dated it. Obviously when we got the results that it was 18,000 years old, that changes everything. When we got that result it was amazing. 18,000 years ago is an interesting time period where we think a lot of stuff is happening with both wolves and dogs genetically.
“We cannot separate it from a modern wolf, Pleistocene [Ice Age] wolf or dog. 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.”
Stanton, on the other hand, added: “I feel fairly nervous about messing something up in the lab. You don’t want to screw it up. It seems that dogs were domesticated from a lineage of wolves that went extinct. So that’s why it’s such a difficult problem to work on to understand where and when dogs were domesticated.
“If you want to find the answer to that you need to look at ancient samples because the population they were domesticated from doesn’t appear to be around anymore. It’s specimens like this that could help clear that up but we don’t have the results yet to speculate on that.”
Their Russian colleague Dr. Sergey Fedorov from the Institute of Applied Ecology of the North at Russia’s North-Eastern Federal University worked on the dog and said, “Just imagine, this puppy has been lying underground in the same pose and condition for 18,000 years without being disturbed at all. I really carefully removed the dirt and other debris stuck to its body step by step, revealing a wonderful condition fur which is extremely rare for animals of that time period.”
It’s been named Dogor.