This young dog was born 12,460 years ago. Found near the Siberian village of Tumat, he belongs to an extinct species that could be revived through cloning.
Hwang Woo Suk carefully prises soft tissue, bone fragments, skin and hair from what looks like a recently deceased black puppy. But looking at the flat paws and mummified face, this is clearly no household pet. It is one of the Tumat puppies – a pair of Ice Age dogs that were found in 2011 and 2015 near the remote Siberian village of Tumat.
“Nobody has ever found ancient puppies this intact, with nose-to-tail skin and internal organs,”
says Sergey Fedorov of North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk. Suk is a controversial figure, expelled from Seoul National University in 2006 for fraudulently claiming to have created stem cells from cloned human embryos, but he is now trying to rebuild his career. He will take the samples back to South Korea where his team at Sooam Biotech Research Foundation – an organisation actively seeking to clone woolly mammoths and other extinct creatures – will study them closely. “We hope the Korean scientists will try to use their cloning technologies on the puppy samples,” says Fedorov. “But in 12,460 years, the puppies’ soft tissues have mummified and various processes have caused destruction.” In March, Fedorov’s team conducted an autopsy on the second puppy, even extracting the brain (pictured below ▼). It will be compared to that of modern dogs and wolves, building on to Danish DNA studies that declared the first puppy “more dog than wolf”.
By Ben Skuse