Scientists have discovered a rare final meal in a mummified puppy's belly. The canine is believed to be 14,400 (+ or -) years old and was discovered in the frozen soil of Siberia nearly 10 years ago. Inside the ancient puppy's stomach were the well-preserved remains of another animal, which scientists originally thought was a cave lion, but that is not the case. Instead, the yellow fur and flesh found in the belly has proven to be something much bigger and "quite unexpected."
Researcher Edana Lord, is a Ph.D. student at the Center for Palaeogenetics. She says that their findings in the mummified puppy's stomach are actually from a massive and rare woolly rhino. According to the Center of Palaeogenetics, "one of the world's last surviving woolly rhinos was eaten by a puppy." It appears that the puppy ate part of the rhino shortly before its death. This is a huge discovery, which has raised a lot of questions about how the remains were kept preserved and how a puppy got a bite of something so huge.
Edana Lord says, "As far as we know, it is very unusual to find tissue from another animal preserved in the stomach." She adds, "although some studies have been done on plant remains from stomach contents." Lord also notes that the frozen soil in Siberia is "essentially like a giant freezer, keeping things cold for thousands of years." Lord went on to say, "When an animal is buried quickly after it dies - for example, if it falls down a crevice - it can become mummified."
Edana Lord and her colleagues named the mummified puppy Tumat, after the Siberian site where it was found back in 2011. "Working on these sorts of specimens gives us a better understanding of what the ice age animals looked like [compared to their modern counterparts]," she says. So, how did the ancient puppy get a chance to munch on something that was a lot bigger than it was? As it turns out, not even the researchers know for sure, but they have a few theories. The first of which has to do with a possible pack of ancient canines working together to take down the woolly rhino. The second theory involves the interference of an early human who may have possibly hunted the beast.
The woolly rhino is an extinct species of rhinoceros that was common throughout Europe and northern Asia during the Pleistocene epoch. It survived until the end of the last glacial period. The rhino was a member of the Pleistocene megafauna and it has been studied numerous times over the years. The new findings within the mummified puppy's belly have given scientists and incredibly preserved piece of the evolutionary puzzle. Edana Lord notes, "This allows us to ask a whole host of questions regarding their population and evolutionary history." The interview with Edana Lord was originally conducted by Inverse. You can check out some images of the ancient puppy above and below.