A 18,000-year-old puppy found frozen in ice might be the 'oldest confirmed dog' in history. Still a very good boy, I'm sure.
Scientists Love Dalén, 44, and Dave Stanton, 34, have shared incredible photos of the pup, who was found in ice in Siberia in summer 2018.
The pair, from Stockholm in Sweden, have spent more than a year analysing the animal but are still not 100 percent sure if it's a young dog or young wolf, possibly because he is from before the point where dogs became domesticated.
If they are able to determine that he's a dog, the pair say it could be the earliest confirmed dog and that the discovery could be used to teach us more about when wolves were domesticated.
The pup is 'amazingly well preserved' and sports a full set of teeth and a fur coat - apart from a bald patch on his rib-cage.
He's been given the nick name Dogor - as he could be a Dog Or wolf. Clever.
He was found in a remote part of north-east Siberia a couple of hours from the nearest town Belaya Gora and is currently in Russia, while Love and Dave study one of its ribs in Sweden.
Love, a professor of evolutionary genetics, said: "It's pretty special because you're holding it and it really feels like a very recently dead animal.
"But you think about it and this was an animal that lived with cave lions and mammoths and woolly rhinos. So it's pretty awesome.
"It was amazingly well-preserved even before they cleaned it up.
"[When we found it] we didn't know how old it was. They said they found it in the permafrost but it happens that things get frozen in there that are only a few hundred years old or even a few decades.
"We were excited about it but we had a healthy dose of scepticism until we radiocarbon dated it. Obviously when we got the results that it was 18,000 years old, that changes everything.
"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."
Fellow researcher Dave reckons the pup is in such good nick because it was found inside a tunnel that was dug into the permafrost.
Dave said: "It's very rare to get specimens that well-preserved. It's basically been frozen for the last 18,000 years.
"You can't find that kind of stuff unless you're looking in that kind of place and there are obviously not many people doing that.
"It's exciting when you get to look at the results and there's a chance you'll discover something new.
"It's nice to know you might be able to contribute to something that's been quite a big debate in the field for a long time.
"[Working on something so ancient and well-preserved] I feel fairly nervous about messing something up in the lab. You don't want to screw it up.
"It seems that dogs were domesticated from a lineage of wolves that went extinct. So that's why it's such a difficult problem to work on to understand where and when dogs were domesticated.
"If you want to find the answer to that you need to look at ancient samples because the population they were domesticated from doesn't appear to be around anymore.
"It's specimens like this that could help clear that up but we don't have the results yet to speculate on that."
Sergey Fedorov, 58, who is working on the pup in Russia, added: "It's an amazing feeling, to see, touch and feel the history of earth.
"Just imagine, this puppy has been lying underground in the same pose and condition for 18,000 years without being disturbed at all.
"I really carefully removed the dirt and other debris stuck to its body step by step, revealing a wonderful condition fur which is extremely rare for animals of that time period.
"The only negative was that the part of the spine was exposed, baring its ribs.
"We named the find 'Dogor' which translated from Yakut means 'friend'. Also it's a pun - 'dog or wolf?'"
Featured Image Credit: Kennedy News and Media
Topics: Interesting, Animals, Dogs