After being discovered in the depths of Siberia’s permafrost, a fascinating prehistoric pup has experts scratching their brains.
The puppy’s name was “Dogor,” which means “Friend” in the Yakut language spoken in the area. It was reported to be only two months old when it died. It was discovered in Siberia, north-east of Yakutsk, near the Indigirka River, and was recently researched at the Swedish Centre for Palaeogenetics (CPG).
The ancient canine has survived in amazingly fine shape, complete with fur, whiskers, and teeth, thanks to the permafrost, which acts as a natural refrigerator. However, researchers are still unaware of what species this curious creature previously belonged to.
While preliminary genome sequencing revealed that the specimen is male and 18,000 years old, it was unable to determine if it is a wolf, a dog, or a proto-dog common ancestor of the two.
“Despite having Europe’s largest DNA database of all dogs from around the world,” Love Dalén, professor of evolutionary genetics at the CPG, told The Siberian Times, “they couldn’t identify it on the first try in this case.”
“What if it’s a dog?” says the narrator. “We can’t wait to see the results of more testing,” said Sergey Fedorov of the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk’s Institute of Applied Ecology of the North.
Around 32,500 years ago, humans began to settle in this northern area of Russia. In addition, earlier study suggests that humans domesticated dogs from wolves between 10,000 and 40,000 years ago. Dogor might theoretically fit anywhere within this range, whether as a devoted home dog, a voracious wild wolf, or anything in between.
Permafrost produces ideal conditions for the preservation of organic materials. The sub-zero temperatures are just enough enough to prevent most bacterial and fungal development from decomposing the body, but not so cold that the tissues are damaged. Scientists are occasionally able to obtain viable DNA fragments that can be used to sequence the genome of the organism in question if the conditions are just perfect.
The 40,000-year-old head of an ice age wolf, still coated in skin and fur, discovered last year in the Abyisky district of northern Yakutia, is another amazing example of permafrost preservation.
In the last few decades, researchers have discovered scores of wooly mammoth remains from the tundra of Siberia and beyond. A 28,000-year-old mammoth named “Yuka” was discovered near the mouth of the Kondratievo River in Siberia in the summer of 2010. It is one of the most famous and studied examples. Scientists have even considered harnessing the DNA of permafrost-preserved mammoths and utilizing it to resuscitate the species from extinction, despite the fact that there is still a long way to go.