Scientists have been studying the perfectly preserved remains of an Ice Age puppy and they were able to determine what it ate for its last meal which was quite surprising. Based on the analysis of its stomach, the 14,000-year-old puppy feasted on a woolly rhino before it died.
The remains of the canine – possibly a wolf – were discovered by Russian researchers at a site in Tumat, Siberia, back in 2011. (Pictures can be seen here.) It was so well preserved that the fur was still on its body as well as the remnants of its last meal in the stomach. At first, the scientists thought that the yellow furry tissue that was found in its stomach belonged to a cave lion but after further analysis, it was revealed that it came from a woolly rhino.
Love Dalen, who is a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Centre for Palaeogenetics, a joint venture between Stockholm University and the Swedish Museum of Natural History, explained this further to CNN, “When they got the DNA back, it didn’t look like a cave lion,” adding, “We have a reference database and mitochondrial DNA from all mammals, so we checked the sequence data against that and the results that came back — it was an almost perfect match for woolly rhinoceros.”
The experts radiocarbon dated the stomach tissue belonging to the woolly rhino and confirmed that it was from approximately 14,400 years ago. “This puppy, we know already, has been dated to roughly 14,000 years ago. We also know that the woolly rhinoceros goes extinct 14,000 years ago. So, potentially, this puppy has eaten one of the last remaining woolly rhinos,” Dalen stated.
So how did a puppy manage to eat the woolly rhino which was around the same size as today’s white rhinoceros (they can grow up to 13 feet in length and weigh as much as 4 tons)? Another curious fact was that based on the remnants in its stomach, it died not long after it ate. Dalen may have an explanation for these two questions. “We don’t know if it was a wolf, but if it was a wolf cub, maybe it came across a baby rhino that was dead, or the (adult) wolf ate the baby rhino,” he suggested, adding, “Maybe as they were eating it, the mother rhino had her revenge.”
Woolly rhinos have been making headlines lately as a few days ago I wrote an article about how climate change caused the extinction of the animal and not because of over-hunting by humans (the article can be read here).