Ancient 'Tumat' Puppy Recovered From Siberian Permafrost—Scientists Say Brain Is 'Well-Preserved'

After 12,400 years in the frozen soil of the Sakha Republic, a Siberian subject of the Russian Federation, a puppy has been thawed and bares its teeth for the first time since the Pleistocene.

The puppy, also known as the "Tumat Puppy" is suspected to be the remains of a pet from the time and was found alongside another about the same age. What distinguishes one from the other is the fact that the puppy in question has been found to have an extremely well-preserved brain, according to The Siberian Times. The two mummified canines were recovered from an area where humans are believed to have inhabited.

In fact, almost all the tissue from the puppy is in remarkable condition considering the age, and scientists have permafrost to thank for that. Permafrost is essentially moisture-heavy soil that is frozen year-around and sometimes doesn't thaw for thousands of years. These conditions are perfect for archaeology and paleontology because they can preserve organic matter strikingly well. A previous example of this is that of a 40,000-year-old mammoth recovered, and was said to have "oozed fresh blood," according to LiveScience, when pulled from the ground. The amount scientists can learn from ice mummies reveals intimate details about the life and death of our ancestors and animals that walked the earth in prehistoric times.

One of the researchers involved in researching the Pleistocene puppies is Hwang Woo-suk, a South Korean scientist interested in cloning animals recovered from permafrost, such as mammoths and now the ancient puppies.

Before the autopsy began, scientists carefully used combs to clean the dirt from the puppy to reveal the fur beneath the filth.

Russian expert Dr Pavel Nikolsky, a research fellow of the Geological Institute, Moscow, told The Siberian Times the following.
"The carcass is preserved really very well. And one of the most important things is that the brain is preserved. The degree of preservation is about 70 to 80%. We will be able to say more precisely after it is extracted. For now we can see it on MRI scans. Of course, it has dried out somewhat, but the both 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."
Nikolsky added that the puppy is also the first predator brain recovered from the era.
"Professor Hwang Woo-suk was also satisfied with the degree of preservation. He was very exсited. We examined the carcass thoroughly, palpated the soft tissues, searching for the areas preserved best of all. As a result, he took the samples from the skin, muscles and ear cartilage."
Here comes the sad part for the puppy-lovers out there; The puppies are believed to have died in a landslide. It breaks the heart to imagine, but that's possibly how they wound up mummified in Siberian permafrost unobstructed by the appetites of other carnivores.

And to make matters worse, researchers have reason to believe that the puppy belonged to someone as a pet. Evidence of animal butchering and fire indicate that humans inhabited the site at some point in time. Perhaps the puppies were being raised to aid in hunting, but this has not been confirmed on account of the fact that research hasn't progressed to this stage.

DNA tests indicate that the puppy is that of a relatively modern dog rather than a wolf. Further tests are required to confirm this, considering that dogs and wolves were genetically quite similar at that time in history.

The autopsy can be viewed below and you can see how well-preserved the puppy is. The teeth and paws are the most striking characteristic of the mummy. Both attributes look remarkably healthy, as if the animal only recently died. The paws are large and indicate that if they had grown to adulthood, they may have been quite formidable in Pleistocene life.

[Image via Shutterstock]