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Could an 18,000-year-old puppy hold the answer for the missing dog-wolf link?


Finding the remains of a prehistoric animal is pretty exciting, but if the specimen is nearly fully intact, then it becomes much more than that. Even though modern science is a lot more advanced than people know, there are some things science has yet to provide an answer for.

In 2018, summer in the frozen ground near Indigirka River, the locals found Dogor. In the Yakut language, Dogor means “a friend” but people know it as an 18,000-year-old pup. However, the presence of Dogor has left people puzzled, including researchers.

Before Dogor, a similar puppy was found in 2016. The remains of a 12,400-year-old puppy were uncovered in the unassuming village of Tumat, not far from where Dogor was originally dug up. This puppy still had its preserved lungs, heart, brain, and stomach. 

The prehistoric pup shows that its genetic is neither from dog nor wolf. This left researchers absolutely dumbfounded; they couldn’t trace this specimen’s lineage and come up with definitive results.

Dogor was found very well-preserved. Its whiskers, nose, head, eyelashes, and mouth were nearly preserved and, for the most part, very much intact. Researchers from the Centre of Paleogenetic also found that Dogor died at the age of two months, based on how it still had its milk teeth. However, the reason for its premature demise remained unknown. 

Although Dogor was found in near-perfect condition (relative to what most specimens look like), researchers were unsure about one thing: was Dogor a dog or a wolf? They had to conduct animal DNA testing draw a definite conclusion on the matter. Using pieces of Dogor’s rib bones, they concluded that it was indeed a male, but as for its species, they were no closer than they were before.

Dogs and wolves come from a common ancestor. These two species look incredibly similar in appearance and sometimes exhibit similar behaviors. However, if you take a step closer, one difference between the species is wolves have a larger head-to-body ratio. In Dogor’s case, even after two DNA testing rounds, researchers still seemed unsure as to whether Dogor was a now-extinct species of dog or wolf.

Despite this lack of information, Dogor was an incredible research specimen. It posed an unknown link in the canine evolution chain, possibly during the time where dogs flourished while wolves were dwindling in numbers. And since these two species come from a common ancestor, experts had an even tougher time distinguishing Dogor’s true lineage.

15,000 to 40,000 years ago, wolves and dogs came from a common ancestor, but seeing as how people weren’t keeping track of things as well as they are now, we’re nowhere close to cracking this mystery. After the evolution, some studies have shown that humans attempted to tame certain dog species only once then giving up, while other breeds stayed alongside humans for much longer. The bond between humans and animals could be traced to Mongolia, China, and Europe. 

One researcher mentioned that climate change played big part in affecting permafrost. As for Dogor, researchers are planning to do a third round of animal DNA testing. This time around, they expect to come up with conclusive evidence regarding Dogor’s true species. More samples will be taken from Dogor and analyzed.