A prehistoric puppy believed to be 18,000 years old was found in permafrost, and presented at a news conference by Russian scientists Monday.
Its hair, teeth, whiskers and eyelashes were still intact when it was discovered last year in a lump of frozen mud, providing ample material for researchers looking to investigate the origins of dogs.
“This puppy has all its limbs, pelage – fur, even whiskers. The nose is visible. There are teeth. We can determine due to some data that it is a male,” Nikolai Androsov, director of the Northern World private museum where the remains are stored, said at a presentation at the Mammoth Museum in Russia’s North Eastern Federal University, per the Associated Press.
Scientists from the Stockholm-based Center for Palaeogenetics took a sample of the puppy’s bone to study its DNA.
“The first step was of course to send the sample to radio carbon dating to see how old it was and when we got the results back it turned out that it was roughly 18,000 years old,” Love Dalén, professor of evolutionary genetics at the center, said in an interview with the Associated Press.
Although they determined its age, further research is needed to determine whether the puppy is a dog or a wolf.
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“We have now generated a nearly complete genome sequence from it and normally when you have a two-fold coverage genome, which is what we have, you should be able to relatively easily say whether it’s a dog or a wolf, but we still can’t say and that makes it even more interesting,” Dalén said. A third round of genome sequencing may solve the mystery, he said.
In the meantime, they’ve named the puppy Dogor — meaning friend in the native Yakut language.
It’s still unclear when exactly wolves were domesticated and evolved into the dogs we know and love today, but a 2017 study found that it took place 20,000 to 40,000 years ago from a single breed of wolves.
Contributing: Daria Litvinova and Roman Kutukov, The Associated Press. Follow Joshua Bote on Twitter: @joshua_bote.