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Ancient puppy's brain is 'well preserved'... as dog bares its teeth after 12,400 years

By Anna Liesowska
16 March 2016

Cloning hope after autopsy of 'pet' frozen in permafrost since pre-historic times.

'The carcass is preserved really very well. And one of the most important things is that the brain is preserved.' Picture: Ivan Tishchenko

Scientists revealed today that they have found the first-ever well preserved brain of a Pleistocene canid. Our exclusive video and pictures show the autopsy on a carcass of a suspected pet puppy found mummified close to what are believed to be signs of human activity in the Ust-Yansky district of the Sakha Republic - also known as Yakutia - on a steep bank of the River Syalakh.

Present at the examination of the remains in regional capital Yakutsk was Hwang Woo-suk, the pioneering South Korean professor who is actively involved in seeking to clone woolly mammoths and other extinct creatures. The ancient dog is now added to the list of animals he wants to bring back to life. 

Tumat puppy


Tumat puppy


Tumat puppy


Tumat puppy

'We took the samples of the ground which surrounded the carcass to find out the ancient parasites and bacteria there.' Pictures: Ivan Tishchenko

Mud and dirt from a dozen millennia was washed off the frozen creature before scientists started the remarkable autopsy of a puppy that may have been a prehistoric man's best friend. 

Russian expert Dr Pavel Nikolsky, research fellow of the Geological Institute, Moscow, told The Siberian Times: 'The carcass is preserved really very well. And one of the most important things is that the brain is preserved. 

'The degree of preservation is about 70 to 80%. We will be able to say more precisely after it is extracted. For now we can see it on MRI scans. Of course, it has dried out somewhat, but the both 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.'

 Tumat puppy


Tumat puppy


Tumat puppy

Professor Hwang Woo-suk took the samples from the skin, muscles and ear cartilage. Pictures: Ivan Tishchenko

And it is the 'first predator's brain' from this era, he said. 

A sibling of this puppy was pulled from the same location four years earlier - in 2011. Sergey Fedorov, research fellow of the North-East Federal University, said: 'This puppy is better preserved than the previous one, so we hope to get more new information. 

'Professor Hwang Woo-suk was also satisfied with the degree of preservation. He was very exсited. We examined the carcass thoroughly, palpated the soft tissues, searching for the areas preserved best of all. As a result, he took the samples from the skin, muscles and ear cartilage.'

Tumat puppy


Tumat puppy


Sergey Fedorov

Dr Sergey Fedorov: 'This puppy is better preserved than the previous one, so we hope to get more new information.' Pictures: Ivan Tishchenko

Dr Artemiy Goncharov, Head of the research laboratory of the Department of Epidemiology, Parasitology and Desinfectology at the North-Western State Medical University in St Petersburg, said: 'We took the samples of the ground which surrounded the carcass to find out the bacteria there. 

'Later we will compare them with the bacteria from the puppy's intestines. We hope to find  ancient bacteria among them. Also we took samples to find the parasites - ticks, fleas. We hope to find the parasites which were characteristic for this exact species.' 

When the puppy was found in its icy grave near the village of Tumat last year, Dr Fedorov said: 'The condition of our new find is perfect. It preserved from nose to tail, including the hair. You can see the hair on the paw on the picture.'

Map


Tumat puppy


Tumat puppy

Two Pleistocene puppies were found in Ust-Yansky district of the Sakha Republic - also known as Yakutia - on a steep bank of the River Syalakh. Pictures: The Siberian Times, Sergey Fyodorov/NEFU

The puppies died in a landslide, it is thought, and they were sealed in the permafrost leading to mummification. Archaeologist Alexander Kandyba, from the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk, obtained tools made of bone at the site. 

He also unearthed bones of animal with traces of butchering and fire - leading to the theory that these puppies could have been ancient pets. Yet more work is being done to establish this.

DNA tests on the first puppy showed it to be a dog, rather than a wolf, but the Russian scientists plan more work to confirm this since the genetic make-up of these ancient animals is very similar. See our earlier story here.

Comments (14)

Absolutely fascinating discovery! Can't wait to see it cloned and the research it reveals! I would love to see megafauna cloned too, megaceros, mammoth, woolly rhino and be able to not only see them in person but study them in a real world setting, like the Siberian gentleman with his Pleistocene Park! I hope you all will do so, regardless of what others think. I believe it would be incredibly important research for modern sciences including understanding paleoenvironments and domestication. I have personally spent my entire life researching, studying, observing and working with horses and would love to see you clone the puppies and other Pleistocene animals. I look forward to your research and wish I could be a part of it, travel and also do my own. Good luck to you and I hope to read more on this.
Shelly Cooper, Clifton, TX USA
31/05/2016 19:04
1
1
yes the teeth are baby teeth, the face/muzzle has about 1/2 inch hair on it in some areas (chin and lips), leading to the thought that these pups had more hair on the muzzle than our domesticated pups. Feet are kind of small compared to the wolves/dire wolves. The bone structure of the head appears to be of more girth in the muzzle than our domesticated dogs. the muzzle itself being shorter than the length of the head/skull from the back of the skull to the stop. it looks more in accordance to the dire wolf skull than our domesticated dogs, in that the depth of the lower and upper jaw are larger in depth from top to bottom (girth). The hair on the legs appears to be thick/dense and short of about 1/8th inch or less but the hair on the neck appears to be of about 3/4 - 1 inch. Puppies coats get longer as they mature. The hair shafts appear to be coarse and of a multitude of colors making the pup a sable with dark points. Lower canine appear to be larger than the domesticated dogs lower canines. The skin appears to be a deep dark color to my eyes/knowledge of dogs. It also looks to me that something was on top of his muzzle and flattened the nose down into the muzzle and cut off his breathing. He would have opened his mouth to compensate but couldnt, thus something had buried him and was extremely heavy. left front foot also appears to have been flattened. He may have been running when it all fell on him and stopped him dead in his tracks. usually a pup or dog would struggle, i see no struggle in this body position.
Lois Schwarz, white city oregon usa
30/03/2016 05:44
3
1
I agree that this is an amazing find and to bring it to life from DNA is so like science fiction !! I believe my 1.5 yr Female Chihuahua my be this ancient breed. She is such a maniac. But seriously the bridge animal between wolf and the dog we have today had to be an amazing creature. I imagine both The wolf/dog and human had to find benefits of teaming up! I wish we could see the transition!! Thank you so much for this amazing work! I come from a family of dog lovers!!
Diane Griffith, Long Beach, CA USA
29/03/2016 08:37
0
3
Would be fascinating to clone but it has had its time. Any research / funding should go into cloning contemporary species who's time was cut short due to human carelessness.
Rcal, Australia
29/03/2016 04:08
2
3
They look like the little baby 'needle teeth' of a puppy!?
Lynne Edwards, United Kingdom
24/03/2016 05:55
4
1
WHAT IS THE COLORING OF THE FUR, THE COURSENESS OR SMOOTHNESS, DID ANYBODY ELSE NOTICE THE LENGTH OF THE CANINE TEETH FOR SUCH A SMALL PUPPY!
KEN HEATON, LAS VEGAS, NV
23/03/2016 05:11
6
1
Oh my gosh, this is amazing! If they manage to bring this little guy's DNA to life, it'll be monumental! We'd be able to see what early domesticated dogs looked like, and be able to examine the characteristic traits they show compared to modern breeds!! This is absolutely amazing!!!
E. Wozny, DFW, Texas, USA
22/03/2016 23:50
6
2
I wonder what modern breed is most like this pup? or is it just wolf? what breed is this thing? before there were breeds
Bruce Morris, Parkland Washington
19/03/2016 14:27
2
1
Nice article.Pictures for a change..Face does look like the pups of today.Please keep us informed on the outcome..
tony, OHIO
19/03/2016 03:46
5
1
I think that is so cool. I want one of those puppies when they are cloned.
Rick Parry, Colorado, USA
19/03/2016 02:52
5
3
Beautiful, it would be nice if they bring the puppy breed back from the dead.
mike Ferguson, Cincinnati OH.
19/03/2016 00:45
3
1
A wonderful find. Can't wait to see what it may have looked like.
Kathy Bakerr, Rome, GA, USA
18/03/2016 22:12
5
1
Wow!! Amazing to think that these puppies could be amongst the first domesticated dogs. Difficult to tell, but I wonder if they looked like wolves or a more modern breed? When will we be able to view a physical likeness?
Lynne Edwards, United Kingdom
18/03/2016 18:07
6
2
Very exciting discovery. Well done to all scientists and other co-workers.
Matthew Tabone, Malta
17/03/2016 20:49
15
1
1

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