Study Traces All Dogs to Gray Wolves in Europe

Bruno Cirelli
Luglio 20, 2017

For this latest study, a team of global researchers analyzed the DNA of two prehistoric dogs from Germany.

"Contrary to the results of this previous analysis, we found that our ancient dogs from the same time period were very similar to modern European dogs, including the majority of breed dogs people keep as pets", said study leader Krishna Veeramah, an assistant professor of ecology and evolution at Stony Brook University in NY.

Dogs were the first type of animal to be domesticated by people, but it's unclear exactly where this first occurred. That timing and other genetic data point to dogs being domesticated just once. However, the archeological record is ambiguous, with claims of ancient domesticated dog bones as far east as Siberia.

Scientists used paleogenomics techniques in 2016 to sequence the genome of a 5,000-year-old ancient dog from Ireland and found that dogs were domesticated not once but twice. The team from Oxford University also hypothesized that an indigenous dog population domesticated in Europe was replaced by incoming migrants domesticated independently in East Asia sometime during the Neolithic era.

The new study examined the complete genetic blueprints, or genome, from a 7,000-year-old dog from Herxheim in Germany, and a 4,700-year-old dog from Cherry Tree Cave (also known as Kirshbaumhöle) in Germany. "This suggests that. there was likely only a single domestication event for the dogs observed in the fossil record from the Stone Age and that we also see and live with today".

The researchers pointed out that the 5,000-year old dog from the previous study was a mixture of European dogs and something similar to current central Asian/Indian dogs.

"We also reanalyzed the ancient Irish dog genome alongside our German dog genomes, and believe we found a number of technical errors in the previous analysis that likely led those scientists to incorrectly make the conclusion of a dual domestication event", Veeramah said.

The new genomic analysis could help scientists better understand the process of dog evolution, despite not knowing an exact geographic origin, which further sequencing of the ancient genomes from Eurasia could eventually help pinpoint.

Given the vastly different appearances of different dog breeds, it might be hard to accept that all of them can trace their ancestors back to a single group of wolves, but that's exactly what new research published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications claimed happened.

Additional scientists collaborating on the research are from Stony Brook University; the University of Michigan; Johannes Gutenberg-University, Germany; the University of Bamberg, Germany; Trinity College, Ireland; and the Department of Monumental Heritage, Germany. Those samples, however, must come from different parts of the world and different eras emphasized Boyko, who according to Nature is now building an global database of canine genomes.

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