In 2019, dogs are rightly called “man’s best friend.” What were they called 18,000 years ago? We’re a little closer to the answer with the discovery in Siberia of the remains of a two-month-old puppy which was flash-frozen so quickly and thoroughly that virtually everything down to its wet nose, whiskers and eyelashes was found intact in the permafrost. Despite that, researchers and canine experts aren’t yet sure if this is the puppy of a dog, a wolf or that elusive missing link between the species – the wolf-dog.
Centre for Palaeogenetics
We now have some news on the 18,000 year old #wolf or #dog puppy.
Genome analyses shows it's a male. So we asked our Russian colleagues to name it...
Thus, the name of the puppy is Dogor!
Dogor is a Yakutian word for "friend", which seems very suitable.
The Siberian Times reports that the frozen puppy was discovered in the summer of 2018 in slowly-melting permafrost near the Indigirka River, north-east of the Russian city of Yakutsk in the Sakha Republic in eastern Siberia. Lacking the means to study its ancient genome in Siberia, the body was sent to the Centre for Palaeogenetics, a joint venture between Stockholm University and the Swedish Museum of Natural History, where they had a name but no determination yet whether this is a wolf, a dog or a wolf-dog.
“Love Dalén, professor of Evolutionary Genetics, said that usually first DNA tests make it clear if this is a wolf or a dog. The Centre has the Europe’s largest DNA bank of all canines from around the globe, yet in this case they couldn’t identify it from the first try. This is intriguing, what if it’s a dog? We can’t wait to get results from further tests.”
Sergey Fedorov, a scientist from the Institute of Applied Ecology of the North at the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk who took a series of detailed photographs of the puppy (see them here) before it was sent to Stockholm, is actually excited that the Centre couldn’t identify the species right off the bat. This opens the possibilities that “it's the common ancestor” – the elusive prehistoric wolf-dog or wolfdog. While dog genes have often been found in wolves, the reverse is extremely rare, leaving a historic link or transition between these similar species a mystery.
“More sequencing needed!”
Sergey Fedorov is anxiously awaiting further genome sequencing by the Swedish team at the Centre for Palaeogenetics. Swedish researcher Love Dalén told LadBible why this little puppy, which lived in the time of cave lions, mammoths and woolly rhinos, is so important.
"When we got that result it was amazing. Eighteen thousand years ago is an interesting time period where we think a lot of stuff is happening with both wolves and dogs genetically. I had assumed that what we'd find was that this was a wolf. But we recently got our first round of results on the genome and we can't say if it's a dog or a wolf. We should be able to - it should be easy. We cannot separate it from a modern wolf, Pleistocene [Ice Age] wolf or dog. One reason why it might be difficult to say is because this one is right there at the divergence time. So, it could be a very early modern wolf or very early dog or a late Pleistocene wolf. If it turns out to be a dog, I would say it is the earliest confirmed dog."
The last word on this discovery goes to Sergey Fedorov, who supports Gary Larson’s Far Side tradition (it may be coming back!) that scientists have a sense of humor.
"We named the find 'Dogor' which translated from Yakut means 'friend'. Also it's a pun - 'dog or wolf?'"