Researchers have found a tiny puppy remarkably frozen in time in the permafrost of Siberia. They now believe that the puppy might be the world’s oldest domesticated dog or a halfway creature from the time when some wolves were undergoing an evolutionary transition into dogs. If confirmed to be a dog, scientists believe it will be the earliest confirmed.
The puppy was discovered in the summer of 2018 near the Indigirka River, where the creature spent 18,000 years in permafrost. The location is north-east of Yakutsk, Siberia, the world’s coldest city. In the lump of soil and ice, scientists could make out the head and paws of what they believed at first to be a young wolf. Sergei Fyodorov, who heads the exposition hall at the Mammoth Museum of Russia’s North-Eastern Federal University, was responsible for cleaning off the dirt and debris to reveal the animal beneath.
After a discussion with their Russian colleagues, the scientists have named the puppy Dogor. The name means “friend” in Yakutian, as well as referencing the question “dog or wolf?” Dogor was very well-preserved because he was found in a tunnel that was dug into the permafrost. Nikolai Androsov, director of the Northern World museum, said at a presentation of the discovery, “This puppy has all its limbs, pelage — fur, even whiskers. The nose is visible. There are teeth. We can determine due to some data that it is a male.”
Scientists are still trying to figure out whether the tiny canine is a dog or a wolf. The fact that testing can’t tell gives further evidence for a link to both species. The scientists also said that a cause of death hadn’t been determined, but it appeared that Dogor was not in distress when he died.
Scientists believe some modern dogs descended from just one wolf population that lived continuously in Europe for thousands of years. A study published in the journal Nature Communications in 2017 suggested that modern dogs were domesticated from a single wolf population 20,000 to 40,000 years ago. Tests on this specimen could offer further clues as to the precise period.