How old is 18,000 in dog years?

Sci­en­tists re­veal pre­his­toric puppy found in Rus­sia

Houston Chronicle - - NEWSMAKERS - By Daria Litvinova and Ro­man Kutukov

YAKUTSK, Rus­sia — Rus­sian sci­en­tists Mon­day showed off a pre­his­toric puppy, be­lieved to be 18,000 years old, found in per­mafrost in the coun­try’s Far East.

Dis­cov­ered last year in a lump of frozen mud near this city, the puppy is un­usu­ally well-pre­served, with its hair, teeth, whiskers and eye­lashes still in­tact.

“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,” said Niko­lai An­drosov, di­rec­tor of the Northern World pri­vate mu­seum, where the re­mains are stored. He spoke at a pre­sen­ta­tion at Yakutsk’s Mam­moth Mu­seum,

which spe­cial­izes in an­cient spec­i­mens.

In re­cent years, Rus­sia’s Far East has pro­vided many riches for sci­en­tists study­ing the re­mains of an­cient an­i­mals. As the per­mafrost melts, af­fected by cli­mate change, more and more parts of woolly mam­moths, ca­nines and other pre­his­toric an­i­mals are be­ing dis­cov­ered. Of­ten it is mam­moth tusk hunters who dis­cover them.

“Why has Yaku­tia (the re­gion of Rus­sia that in­cludes Yakutsk) come through a real spate of such unique find­ings over the last decade? First, it’s global warm­ing. It re­ally ex­ists, we feel it and lo­cal peo­ple feel it strongly. Win­ter comes later, spring comes ear­lier,” said Sergei Fyodorov, a sci­en­tist with North East­ern Fed­eral Univer­sity.

“And the sec­ond very se­ri­ous, deep rea­son of why there are a lot of finds is the very high price of mam­moth tusk in the Chi­nese mar­ket.”

When the puppy was dis­cov­ered, sci­en­tists from the Stock­holm-based Cen­ter for Palaeo­ge­net­ics took a piece of bone to study its DNA.

“The first step was of course to send the sam­ple to ra­dio­car­bon dat­ing to see how old it was, and when we got the re­sults back, it turned out that it was roughly 18,000 years old,” Love Dalen, pro­fes­sor of evo­lu­tion­ary ge­net­ics at the cen­ter, said in an on­line in­ter­view.

Fur­ther tests, how­ever, left the sci­en­tists with more ques­tions than an­swers — they couldn’t defini­tively tell whether the puppy was a dog or a wolf.

“We have now gen­er­ated a nearly com­plete genome se­quence from it, and nor­mally when you have a twofold cov­er­age genome … you should be able to rel­a­tively eas­ily say whether it’s a dog or a wolf,” Dalen said. “But we still can’t say, and that makes it even more in­ter­est­ing.”

He added that the sci­en­tists are about to do a third round of genome se­quenc­ing, which might solve the mys­tery.

Sergei Fyodorov / As­so­ci­ated Press

A handout photo taken in Septem­ber 2018 shows the 18,000-year-old puppy that was found in frozen mud in Rus­sia’s Far East.

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