Russian scientists on Monday displayed an 18,000-year-old male puppy that was discovered by local people in 2018 in a lump of frozen ground near the Indigirka River in eastern Russia’s Yakutia (officially the Sakha Republic).
“Its full body, muzzle, and even whiskers and eyelashes (were) preserved by permafrost (ground that remains frozen below zero degree Celsius for a period of at least two years),” The Siberian Times reported.
The puppy was less than two months old when it died. Scientists have named the dog “Dogor”, which means “friend” in the Yakut language.
Dog or a wolf?
Scientists have struggled to determine if the puppy was a dog or a wolf. Typically, first DNA tests should make it clear if Dogor was a dog or a wolf, but the results of the genome sequencing (which reveals the kind of information that is stored in DNA) carried out by researchers from the Swedish Centre for Paleogenetics (SCP) did not yield definitive results.
This has led scientists to speculate whether the animal possessed the traits of both dog and wolf, suggesting that at the time Dogor was alive, dogs were still in the process of evolving from wolves to become a distinct species.
Why is Dogor important?
In 2011, hunters in search of mammoth tusks discovered an ice age puppy’s snout frozen in permafrost. In 2016, scientists revealed that they had uncovered not one, but two such puppies, who were dubbed as the “Tumat puppies”.
In the last few years, melting permafrost in Siberia has led to the discovery of a few such prehistoric animals, including woolly mammoths and canines.
These discoveries are significant as they may help scientists in tracing the lineage of domesticated dogs. While dogs are considered to have evolved from wolves, scientists do not yet know how and when this happened.
Discoveries such as those of Dogor and the Tumat puppies add to the existing knowledge of how canines evolved. According to a press release issued by the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, the puppy could be a wolf, dog or the “so called wolf-dog”.
“Gray wolves and dogs diverged from an extinct wolf that died about 15,000 to 40,000 years ago,” the release said.
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