A two-month-old puppy died 18,000 years ago, and it was preserved the permafrost near Yakutsk in Eastern Siberia. I knew about this discovery a few weeks ago, but I was waiting DNA tests to see exactly what it was. The late Pleistocene is when we start to see the beginnings of domestic dogs, and we do have some tantalizing subfossils of wolves with what might be exhibiting morphological characters suggesting domestication that date to even earlier than this puppy. So it is an interesting find.
Indeed, any of these late Pleistocene gray wolves that are found in Eurasia could hold some mysteries about dog domestication.
But the initial DNA analysisrevealed that it does not match domestic dogs or extant gray wolves. This suggests that it might come from the ancestral population that leads to both.
Or it could mean that it is of a lineage of gray wolf that has since died out.
Of course, most media coverage of the discovery hint at this puppy being from the ancestral form, but it’s more likely that the latter is the disappointing answer.
More extensive genome analysis is going to be needed to determine what this gray wolf pup was.
Whatever it was, this puppy shows that these discoveries hold many mysteries in their DNA.
The puppy has been named “Dogor,” which means “friend” in the Yakutian language. And he might have been just that– a friend to some band of Pleistocene hunters.
But for now, we can only speculate and wonder.