Back in the summer of 2018, scientists found a male puppy buried inside a lump of frozen ground near the Indigirka River, north-east of Yakutsk, Russia. The puppy’s full-body, thick hair, muzzle, and even whiskers and eyelashes were preserved by permafrost.

Scientists deduced that the dog was less than two months old when it died, but the cause of death is not yet determined. The near-perfectly preserved canine is an astonishing 18,000 years old and might be the ‘oldest confirmed dog’ in history. However, after studying it, scientists aren’t sure whether the ‘amazingly well-preserved’ creature is a dog or wolf – presumably because it comes from the point where dogs were domesticated.

More info: Centre for Palaeogenetics

Scientists are still unsure whether the canine found is a dog or a wolf

Image credits: Sergey Fedorov

Love Dalén and his colleague Dave Stanton – researchers from Sweden – believe that it could be the earliest confirmed dog. If so, it could be incredibly valuable in learning about the domestication of the wolves. “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 the permafrost but it happens that things get frozen in there that are only a few hundred years old or even a few decades,” Love Dalén said.

The discovery can be crucial in learning about the domestication of wolves

Image credits: Sergey Fedorov

“We were excited about it but we had a healthy dose of skepticism 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,” Love Dalén, a professor of evolutionary genetics, added.

The canine was very well preserved because of the permafrost

Image credits: Sergey Fedorov

The puppy was found in a remote part of north-east Siberia and still remains in Russia, while the researchers Love Dalén and Dave Stanton are studying its rib bone in Sweden. According to Dace Stanton, the dog was so well preserved because it was found in a tunnel dug into the permafrost. The scientists are excited about the discovery as it “might be able to contribute to something that’s been quite a big debate in the field for a long time.”

The Russian scientists named the puppy Dogor

Image credits: Sergey Fedorov

On the 25th of November, the Swedish Centre for Palaeogenetics announced on their Twitter account: “Genome analyses show it’s a male. So we asked our Russian colleagues to name it… Thus, the name of the puppy is Dogor! Dogor is a Yakutian word for “friend”, which seems very suitable.”

And are now waiting impatiently for further test results

Image credits: Sergey Fedorov

Dr. Sergey Fedorov, an ancient canine expert from the North-Eastern Federal University said: “The center has Europe’s largest DNA bank of all canines from around the globe, yet in this case, they could not identify it from the first try. This is intriguing. What if it’s a dog? We can’t wait to get results from further tests.” Referring to the frozen puppy, the scientist said that it was “amazing… to see, touch and feel the history of Earth.”

“Just imagine, this puppy has been lying underground in the same pose and condition for 18,000 years”

Image credits: Sergey Fedorov

“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. The only negative was that the part of the spine was exposed, baring its ribs,” the Russian researcher commented.

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