Frozen in permafrost on the banks of a Siberian river, the remains of a 12,400-year-old puppy has been discovered, giving scientists an opportunity to examine a well-preserved Pleistocene canid for the first time. The dog is thought to be a sibling of another that was unearthed in 2011, and is presumed to have been killed in a landslide before becoming mummified.
While the previous find was in a more advanced state of decay, the latest discovery has been described by Sergey Fedorov of the North-East Federal University as “preserved from nose to tail, including the hair.” Perhaps the most intriguing feature of the ancient animal is its brain, which MRI scans have shown to be “70 to 80 percent” intact.
Speaking to the Siberian Times, Dr. Pavel Nikolsky, research fellow of the Geological Institute in Moscow, said that the 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.”
The specimen – which DNA analysis has revealed to be a dog rather than a wolf – was found on the banks of the River Syalakh in the Sakha Republic. The discovery of stone tools nearby suggests human activity in the region, leading researchers to speculate that the puppy may have been a pet.
Aside from examining the puppy’s brain, scientists also hope to analyze the bacteria in its digestive system and the parasitic ticks present in its fur in order to learn more about the diversity of life present in Siberia during the Pleistocene – a geological epoch spanning the repeated glaciations known as the last Ice Age.
Attending the site of the discovery, controversial Korean scientist Hwang Woo-Suk, who has expressed a desire to clone a number of extinct animals, took samples of the dog’s skin, muscle, and cartilage. Said to be “very excited” about the level of preservation of theses tissues, he has now added the puppy to the list of animals he hopes to clone, which also includes woolly mammoths and cave lions.