Yakutia (Russie): Ancient puppy's brain is 'well preserved'... as dog bares its teeth after 12,400 years
Cloning hope after autopsy of 'pet' frozen in permafrost since pre-historic times.
'The carcass is preserved really very well. And one of the most important things is that the brain is preserved.' Picture: Ivan Tishchenko
Scientists revealed today that they have found the first-ever well preserved brain of a Pleistocene canid. Our exclusive video and pictures show the autopsy on a carcass of a suspected pet puppy found mummified close to what are believed to be signs of human activity in the Ust-Yansky district of the Sakha Republic - also known as Yakutia - on a steep bank of the River Syalakh.
Present at the examination of the remains in regional capital Yakutsk was Hwang Woo-suk, the pioneering South Korean professor who is actively involved in seeking to clone woolly mammoths and other extinct creatures. The ancient dog is now added to the list of animals he wants to bring back to life.
'We took the samples of the ground which surrounded the carcass to find out the ancient parasites and bacteria there.' Picture: Ivan Tishchenko
Mud and dirt from a dozen millennia was washed off the frozen creature before scientists started the remarkable autopsy of a puppy that may have been a prehistoric man's best friend.
Russian expert Dr Pavel Nikolsky, research fellow of the Geological Institute, Moscow, told The Siberian Times: '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.'
Professor Hwang Woo-suk took the samples from the skin, muscles and ear cartilage. Pictures: Ivan Tishchenko
And it is the 'first predator's brain' from this era, he said.
A sibling of this puppy was pulled from the same location four years earlier - in 2011. Sergey Fedorov, research fellow of the North-East Federal University, said: 'This puppy is better preserved than the previous one, so we hope to get more new information.
'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.'
Dr Artemiy Goncharov, Head of the research laboratory of the Department of Epidemiology, Parasitology and Desinfectology at the North-Western State Medical University in St Petersburg, said: 'We took the samples of the ground which surrounded the carcass to find out the bacteria there.
'Later we will compare them with the bacteria from the puppy's intestines. We hope to find ancient bacteria among them. Also we took samples to find the parasites - ticks, fleas. We hope to find the parasites which were characteristic for this exact species.'
When the puppy was found in its icy grave near the village of Tumat last year, Dr Fedorov said: 'The condition of our new find is perfect. It preserved from nose to tail, including the hair. You can see the hair on the paw on the picture.'
The puppies died in a landslide, it is thought, and they were sealed in the permafrost leading to mummification. Archaeologist Alexander Kandyba, from the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk, obtained tools made of bone at the site.
He also unearthed bones of animal with traces of butchering and fire - leading to the theory that these puppies could have been ancient pets. Yet more work is being done to establish this.
DNA tests on the first puppy showed it to be a dog, rather than a wolf, but the Russian scientists plan more work to confirm this since the genetic make-up of these ancient animals is very similar. See our earlier story here.