An incredible find in Russia has offered scientists a rare glimpse into the late Pleistocene epoch: An extinct breed of dog has been found frozen and intact. The 12,400 year old pupsicle is almost completely intact, including its brain, and is being studied to see how man’s best friend lived back in the days when humans were still a thousand years from exiting the stone age.
The dog was found in Tumat, a city of the Sakha Republic region of Russia. It lies at the far northern reaches of the state, well within the Arctic Circle, and features a harsh climate that only a few hundred of the hardiest of souls are able to brave. It is precisely this environment that contributed to the preservation of the prehistoric pup, as it was found in a layer of permafrost, frozen and intact.
While the discovery is exciting, much work had to be done before it could even be properly studied. Layers of dirt and mud covered the dog, and were carefully washed away before an autopsy and other research could be done. Still, scientists are optimistic that upwards of 70 to 80 percent of the dog’s brain is intact, not to mention its teeth and even hair. If it bears up, this is not only the first dog brain discovered of the time period, but the most complete predator brain of all.
“We will be able to say more precisely after it is extracted,” said researcher Pavel Nikolsky. “For now we can see it on MRI scans. Of course, it has dried out somewhat, but the 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.”
Perhaps the most intriguing part about this find is that it is very near earlier discovered evidence of human activity, and may have even been a pet or other companion animal for those in the area. Not only could the dog offer insight into its own species, but also those of its neighbors and possible friends.
In addition to the human and canine information that might be obtained, the study could reveal what type of parasites and bacteria were prominent in the area. Another puppy was found nearby a few years ago, though it was not nearly as well preserved. Combining what they have found in and near both will be an incredible boon to understanding the prehistory of the region.
As for the cause of death, it appears that a landslide claimed the pair of pooches. DNA testing will be done to confirm the species, and the idea of cloning the species has been floated as well.