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Preserved Ice Age Puppies May Have Been First Domesticated Dogs

30 March 2016, 2:45 am EDT By Angela Laguipo Tech Times
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Scientists dissected the Ice Age puppy found in Russia’s far northeast region, Yakutia. The brain was well-preserved and the two puppies lived way back 12,000 years ago.  ( NEFU Mammoth Museum )

Hunters in search for mammoth tusks were in awe after finding two preserved Ice Age puppies in Yakutia, Northeast Russia. Dating back to more than 12,000 years ago, these may have been the first domesticated dogs.

The hunters discovered the first pup in 2011 and in 2015, another pup was found near the location where the first one was found.

"To find a carnivorous mammal intact with skin, fur and internal organs - this has never happened before in history," Sergey Fyodorov of the North-Eastern Federal University (NEFU), said.

When the hunters informed him of their discovery, he immediately flew into the area to get a closer look.

Debate Over Dog Origin

A previous study showed that domesticated dogs originally came from Southeast Asia many years ago. The researchers suggested that the canines may have migrated out of Asia to Africa and the Middle East, and eventually, in Europe.

Other scientists, however, claim that the man's best friend came from Mongolia. When researchers analyzed the DNA of dogs, it suggests that these dogs did not originate from Europe, Southern China or the Middle East as previously thought. The dogs may have originated from Mongolia or Nepal.

Ice Age Pup Dissection

NEFU scientists, for the first time, extracted a well-preserved brain of the two puppies found in the Arctic tundra. Dubbed Tumat dogs, the two puppies lived in the Pleistocene era.

Fyodorov said that some of the mammoth remains also found in the area were burned and butchered, suggesting the presence of humans during that era. It is still unclear, however, if these puppies were wild or domesticated.

The scientists are still not sure if these dogs became human companions, since they were taken in or if wolves drifted to human sites in search of food. Further research will be conducted especially on the other parts of the puppies' bodies like the stomach.

The answer lies after the planned reconstruction of the Ice Age puppies' genomes, which would take at least a year.

"A special research program will be formed to study the brain of Tumat puppy, involving both Russian and foreign institutions," said Fyodorov, who is also the head of the project.

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