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'Lavrentiev Prospect, Akademgorodok was in the Guinness Book of Records as the 'world's most scientific street''

Autopsy carried out in Far East on world's oldest dog mummified by ice

By Anna Liesowska
18 June 2015

12,000-year-old remains of puppy were discovered perfectly intact sealed inside permafrost.

The dog, believed to be a three-month-old female, was unearthed in 2011 on the Syallakh River in the Ust-Yana region of Yakutia, also known as the Sakha Republic. Picture: NEFU

Scientists in the Russian Far East have carried out a post-mortem examination of the remains of the only mummified dog ever found in the world.

Found sealed inside permafrost during a hunt for traces of woolly mammoths, the perfectly-preserved body is 12,450 years old.

The dog, believed to be a three-month-old female, was unearthed in 2011 on the Syallakh River in the Ust-Yana region of Yakutia, also known as the Sakha Republic.

Experts spent the past four years analysing the body – which included not just bones but also its heart, lungs and stomach – but only carried out the long-awaited autopsy in April.

It took place at the Institute of Medicine within the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, and experts say the results will 'greatly help' the research of ancient dog species.

Indeed, the study could prove if the animal was an ancestor of modern-day domestic pets.

Tumat dog

Autopsy took place at the Institute of Medicine within the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, and experts say the results will 'greatly help' the research of ancient dog species. Picture: NEFU

Dr Darima Garmaeva, professor of the NEFU Medical Institute, said: 'Our task is to estimate the preservation of the ancient animal tissues at the macro and micro level.

'What is of real interest is the fact the animal has a completely preserved carcass, which is unique by itself, with nothing like it in the world. Although the tissues are mummified, they have no post-mortem decomposition, as it usually happens with biological material.'

The mummified puppy was found by brothers Yury and Igor Gorokhov, about 42 kilometres from their home in the village of Tumat, as they were looking for mammoth tusks.

They got in touch with scientists at NEFU and the unidentified remains were excavated before the experts said they belonged to a dog.

It is believed the animal – which was named the Tumat dog, after the village – had died in a landslide at the water's edge and analysis aged it to about 12,450 years.

Tumat dog


Tumat dog

'What is of real interest is the fact the animal has a completely preserved carcass, which is unique by itself, with nothing like it in the world.' Pictures: NEFU

From 2011, a number of international scientists, including specialists from Belgium, Canada and Germany, became involved in examining the remains.

In August 2014, Dr Mietje Germonpre, from the palaeontology department of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, travelled to Yakutsk to see them.

She said at the time: 'After studying the mummy and looking at the measurements of the skulls belonging to ancient dogs and wolves, I can say this find is unique.

'It's amazing. In other museums around the world you will only find the remains of adult dogs, but this is a puppy. Also all external signs and scan results indicate that it is a primitive dog, and at the moment it is the most ancient one found in northern Siberia. 

'The oldest dog remains were found in the Goyet cave in Belgium, and were 36,500 years old, and there are many finds dating to about 26,000 years ago - but they are not so well preserved. Here we see the skin and wool and even the internal organs survived.'

Metje Germonpre

Dr Mietje Germonpre, from the palaeontology department of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, travelled to Yakutsk to see them. Picture: Thierry Hubin, IRSNB

The Belgian said the animal is the 'oldest mummified dog in the world' and said scientists hope it will help chart the ancestry to today’s domesticated canines.

It could be that it belonged to an early domestic breed that lived with the people of Central Asia and went on to settle in the American continent.

'There are two main theories,' said Dr Germonpre. 'The first is that dogs arrived near sites where humans lived and picked up the scraps and gradually they co-existed. The second version talks about the active involvement of man, where the people themselves were the initiator of the relationship, and brought the puppies to their home and trained them.

'The data that I have accumulated speaks in favour of the latter theory. Now we can get more arguments.'

During the post-mortem at Yakutsk, the experts found parts of the dog’s insides intact, including remains of the heart, liver, lungs, and part of the intestine as well as the stomach, complete with its contents.

Tumat dog

One theory is that as the puppy fell to its death from the landslide it attempted to grab onto nearby plants with its mouth. Picture: NEFU

What intrigued them most was that two pieces of twigs, about one centimetre in length, were found inside the stomach. One theory is that as the puppy fell to its death from the landslide it attempted to grab onto nearby plants with its mouth.

A further examination of the stomach will take place in the autumn, while some tissue samples have also been passed on to Tohoku University in Japan for analysis.

Sergey Fedorov, head of the Tumat dog research project, said: 'Near the place where the dog was found local people often find things that obviously belonged to ancient humans, such as stone implements and bone arrowheads.

'We plan to go to the site this summer together with the archaeologists to find any traces left by humans - and possibly the owners of the dog.'

Comments (18)

I would like to know if there is full dentition even as a pup it seems that could be determined. Also, was there a head shape defined?
Ronda Allen, Huntersville/USA
05/06/2016 05:31
0
0
The length of the teeth could be misleading. As flesh mummifies, it shrinks away from hard (bony) substance. This is evident from Egyptian mummies. So I think the tooth exposure here is longer than the actual living dog's teeth were.
Teresa, USA
29/03/2016 21:54
0
0
The scientists also claim the same thing happened to mammoths. All these animals, millions of them were so stupid, they died falling into a pit near a watering hole and somehow the bank collapsed burying them under mud which very quickly froze and stayed frozen ever since. You do not see the same processes of preservation of whole animals occurring anywhere today. Great imagination, but they need to start considering the definition of permafrost itself. It is frozen mud. Sometimes they are pulling unfossilized dinosaur bones out of the banks in the North Slope of Alaska too.
Doug Gibson, Canada
01/09/2015 21:41
0
5
I believe that the puppy was hungry for something and a bit curious, my puppy is naughty as well.
Michel, Usa
27/08/2015 05:51
1
1
Not a wolf and not a puppy. Fully domestic as dogs from this area had been domesti ation for thousands of years. Adult teeth wth tarter build up. Yakuts village dog just like they have currently. Hardly an ancestor of todays pets. Possibly related to NA dogs.
stephanie little wolf, alaska
23/08/2015 23:39
1
1
The teeth indicate this puppy is older than 3 months. The canines are completely erupted and even appear to have some tartar although I guess that could be stains acquired during preservation. These are sturdy adult teeth, not the fine sharp teeth of a puppy. In my expert opinion this dog was at least 6 months old. How could these experts make this big of a mistake? Maybe because it is smaller than expected?
Janice Koler-Matznick, Central Point, OR, USA
23/08/2015 23:16
4
1
Certainly not the only mummified dog in the world, but may be the oldest. There are two mummified specimens from Arizona, a Native American burial in a very dry area. The other remains in the article are not mummified.
Mollie Brown, USA
01/08/2015 11:37
0
0
Hi a quick glance through google can actually answer some of these questions: Autopsy is defined as follows according to google: An autopsy—also known as a post-mortem examination, necropsy, autopsia cadaverum, or obduction—is a highly specialized surgical procedure that consists of a thorough examination of a corpse to determine the cause and manner of death and to evaluate any disease or injury that may be present. So no difference between human or animal. Dead is dead and humans are also animals. As for the teeth, puppies usually push out their baby teeth prior to 4 months. So that explains the adult teeth. Although it may not have been just teeth they could look at the skull to or inside the gums if they cut them open. Depending on how well preserved it all is.
Kato, USA
22/06/2015 22:52
2
0
Dr. Howard Evans may be 90yrs, but very active.
author of "Dissection of the Dog" former president of World Anatomists
emeritus at Cornell Veterinary college

I hope such individuals were invited or consulted before the scientists vandalized the specimen.
Richard, USA
22/06/2015 22:45
3
3
I believe the correct term is "Necropsy"; not "Autopsy", which describes examination of a human corpse.
Jim, West Palm Beach, Fl USA
22/06/2015 20:50
6
1
To be fair, article was as informative as a NOVA show, or Nat. Geo. or Smithsonian article -- so almost no real data. Why do they say it was a dog? Dogs are domesticated wolves. Smaller brains, multi-colored coats -- all signs of domestication. Any DNA comparisons? How does find relate to dating of dog domestication?
Gingerelle, US
21/06/2015 22:52
6
6
Interesting read but I too question the land slide theory add well as the grabbing puppies theory. Two points odd contention with this article: Firstly, your opening states (erroneously) that is the only dog mummy which you contradict later. Secondly, post mortem examinations of an animal is a necropsy, not an autopsy.
Victoria, Orlando/Florida
21/06/2015 08:18
11
4
Fantastic discovery and well written article.
Craig, Canada
21/06/2015 03:28
6
3
I'd be interested to know how the age of the dog was determined. Obviously they had more information at hand with the examination than I have from a few photos in this article but from what I can see of the close of the mouth are permanent adult canine teeth, not deciduous puppy teeth. In modern dogs adult teeth are present after 6 months of age so anything with adult teeth present would be at least 6 months old.
Louise, Brisbane, Australia
21/06/2015 01:20
24
1
A great find! But to me that twig in the picture looks more than one centimeter in length! Further, I think it is bizarre and an overreach to "theorize" that the dog died in a landslide just because two pieces of twigs were found in his stomach! Dogs are curious and may accidentally swallow the objects of their curiosity. Certainly, my dog did. Who knows what could have been attached to those twigs!
E. Espinosa, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
19/06/2015 11:37
26
4
12

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