An autopsy of an ancient frozen puppy that was mummified in permafrost 12,400 years ago has been conducted, with scientists revealing that it has the first-ever well preserved brain of a Pleistocene canid.
The “Tumat Puppy” appears to be an extinct species of canine. Its icy grave was discovered near a village called Tumat in the Sakha Republic of Russia last year.
The puppy is suspected to have been a pet, as the mummified body was found close to what appears to be an ancient human settlement in the Ust-Yansky district of the Sakha Republic on the steep banks of the River Syalakh.
Pavel Nikolsky from the Geological Institute in Moscow, and a member of the team, 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 percent. 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.”
The scientists believe that the Tumat Puppy most likely would have been from the same litter as the Tumat Dog; another puppy that was found sealed in permafrost at the same site in 2011. Its untimely death was dated to around the same time as the puppy. Both dogs are thought to have been killed in a landslide close to the river.
The researchers examined the bacteria from the puppy’s intestines, hoping to find ancient bacteria among them. Samples were also taken to look for parasites such as ticks and fleas. When the puppy was discovered in its grave the scientists said that: “The condition of our new find is perfect. It [was] preserved from nose to tail, including the hair.”
The DNA tests from the first puppy showed it to be a dog, and not a wolf; however, the scientists plan to conduct more tests as the genetic make-up of these ancient animals is very similar.
Professor Hwang Woo-Suk, a controversial cloning expert leading efforts to resurrect woolly mammoths and an exinct cave lion, was also present at the Tumat Puppy’s autopsy. According to Discovery News: “He’s also building an animal cloning facility in China, and has held a dog-cloning competition in the United Kingdom.”
Woo-suk was reported to have been “satisfied with the degree of preservation,” and “he was very exсited.” The team of researchers examined the carcass for the best samples to give to Woo-suk, who now wants to bring the ancient dog breed back from extinction.
Woo-Suk says there’s a possibility of “resurrecting” the extinct species of canine. He’s taken the best preserved skin, muscle, and ear catilage from the Tumat Puppy, and will be analysing their potential, according to Science Alert.
Archaeologist Alexander Kandyba from the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk, discovered tools made from bone at the site where the puppies were found. Among the findings were bones of animals with indications of butchering and a fire, which led to the theory that these puppies may have been ancient pets.