Scientists have made an unexpected discovery of a perfectly preserved Ice Age puppy in Russia.
Russian researchers first excavated a perfectly preserved furry body of a canine, which were thought to be either a dog or a wolf, from a site in Tumat, Siberia back in 2011.
Scientists found a hairy piece of tissue inside the 14,000-year-old puppy’s stomach. At first, they thought it could have belonged to a cave lion, because of its fine yellow fur, but tests made by experts from Stockholm’s Natural History Museum showed another story.
“When they got the DNA back, it didn’t look like a cave lion,” Love Dalen, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Centre for Palaegenetics, a collaboration between Stockholm University and the Swedish Museum of Natural History, told CNN in an interview.
“We have a reference database and mitochondrial DNA from all mammals, so we checked the sequence data against that and the results that came back — it was an almost perfect match for woolly rhinocerous,” Dalen said. “It’s completely unheard of. I’m not aware of any frozen Ice Age carnivore where they have found pieces of tissue inside.”
He added that the radiocarbon dating showed that the rhino skin was around 14,400 years old.
“This puppy, we know already, has been dated to roughly 14,000 years ago. We also know that the woolly rhinoceros goes extinct 14,000 years ago. So, potentially, this puppy has eaten one of the last remaining woolly rhinos,” he added.
The scientists said the creatures would have been the same size as the white rhino, but it is unlikely that the puppy killed the beast itself. They also think the puppy died shortly after eating the rhino, because it had not been digested well in its stomach.
“We don’t know if it was a wolf, but if it was a wolf cub, maybe it came across a baby rhino that was dead, or the (adult) wolf ate the baby rhino,” Dalen said. “Maybe as they were eating it, the mother rhino had her revenge.”