The body of an 18,000-year-old puppy, which was found in an almost perfect state, has left scientists baffled.
Russian scientists discovered the body of the canine near Yakutsk, in eastern Siberia. Preserved by permafrost – which is ice that must be frozen year-round – the animal’s nose, fur and teeth are extraordinarily intact.
Using the dating by carbon 14 in bone of the creature’s rib, experts from the Paleogenetic Center of Sweden were able to confirm that the animal was frozen for approximately 18,000 years. However, until now comprehensive DNA tests have failed to prove whether the animal was a dog or a wolf.
“It’s usually relatively easy to tell the difference between the two,” David Stanton, a researcher at the Center for Paleogenetics, told CNN.
“We already have a lot of information and with that amount of data I would expect to know if it is one or the other. The fact that we cannot distinguish them may suggest that it comes from a population that was ancestral to both dogs and wolves, ”he explained.
Stanton told CNN that the period to which the frozen puppy belongs is “a very interesting moment in terms of the evolution of wolves and dogs.”
“We don’t know exactly when the dogs were domesticated, but it may have been around that time. We are interested in knowing if it is a dog or a wolf, or maybe it is something halfway between the two, ”he added.
Other tests could provide more information on exactly when the dogs were domesticated, Stanton said.
It is believed that modern dogs come from a domestication of wolves, but exactly when that happened is unclear: in 2017, a study published in the journal Nature Communications found that modern dogs were domesticated from a single population of wolves 20,000 years ago .
In contrast, a 2016 Oxford University study, published in the journal Science, suggested that dogs were domesticated independently of gray wolves twice during the Paleolithic era, once in Asia and once in Europe.
Scientists at the Paleogenetic Center said on Twitter that genome analysis had revealed that the puppy was male. They also noted that, after consulting with their Russian colleagues, they would call the Dogor puppy, which means “friend” in Yakutian.
The scientists plan to perform more genome data tests on the creature to discover more about its origins.