Ice age puppies found preserved in Russia's icy Yakutia

A pair of puppies dating back to the Ice Age have been recovered from Yakutia, a frigid region in northern Russia. The discovery was first made back in 2011 by hunters seeking mammoth tusks; they saw the snout of one puppy visible through the permafrost and informed Mammoth Museum of the North-Eastern Federal University's head of exhibitions Sergei Fyodorov. Five years have passed since, and researchers have announced that the puppies are so well preserved, they mark a new world's first.

The puppies are 12,460 years old, according to researchers, and they're described as having been fully and impeccably preserved by the icy. The creatures feature fur and skin and internal organs, marking the first time such a level of preservation has been found with a carnivorous mammal.

The puppies were about three months old at the time of their death, and were discovered in close proximity to each other not too far from the Arctic Ocean. The first puppy had been discovered by the hunters, while the second was found later on by Fyodorov when he returned to the area in 2015. The second puppy was removed from the ice only last week, and is thought to have belonged to the same litter.

At this point, researchers don't know whether the puppies had been domesticated or were born and died wild. The site — which is near the village of Tumat, earning the pups the name "Tumat Dog" — features signs of burned, human-butchered mammoth remains, hinting that humans were in that region at one point or another.

Such a discovery has already stoke questions about whether humans were domesticating dogs in the region at that time, and how such a discovery could influence understanding about the domestication of canines in general. To tell whether the litter had been domesticated, researchers will restructure the dogs' genomes, though we won't know the results of that until next year at the earliest.

Also notable about the discovery is the second puppy's brain, which is described as being well-preserved, something rare in young canines. Researchers plan to compare the brain to that of modern puppies to see what is different. As well, the team has harvested parasites from the animal, which will be studied, and found the animal's stomach full of grass — something that could have been dietary or could have been a desperate attempt to avoid starving to death.