Dogs are descended from two different populations of wolves

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(ORDO NEWS) — The dog has been a friend of man for more than 15 thousand years, but where and how this friendship began is not yet very clear.

A new study has shown that the domestication of the wolf and its transformation into a dog may have occurred twice and independently in different parts of Eurasia.

There are about 900 million dogs in the world today, which belong to many different breeds. It is known that the domestic dog ( Canis familiaris ) appeared as a result of human domestication of a wild predator – the gray wolf ( Canis lupus ). Some scientists even consider dogs to be a subspecies of the same species ( Canis lupus familiaris ).

This process proceeded gradually and began more than 15 thousand years ago, that is, at the end of the last ice age, when the high latitudes of the planet were cold and dry.

According to one hypothesis, those wolves that were bolder approached housing and began to interact with humans.

Years and centuries passed, and more and more tamed wolves passed on to their puppies those genes that made them especially good protectors and hunting assistants for Homo sapiens.

However, much is still unclear on this issue. Some geneticists believe that dogs first originated in East Asia, while others point to Siberia, the Middle East, Western Europe, and elsewhere. Now a large team of researchers from 16 countries has taken a different approach to the problem.

They made a detailed map describing the family ties of wolves. “If you think of the wolf lineage as a big jigsaw puzzle, we basically added a piece to it that matches dogs,” says Pontus Skoglund, lead author of the study from the Francis Crick Institute and Harvard Medical School (USA). ).

In total, a new article in the leading scientific journal Nature has 81 (!) Authors, mainly archaeologists, anthropologists and geneticists.

These researchers studied the genomes of 72 wolves that have lived over the past 100,000 years in various parts of Europe, Siberia and North America.

Scientists were surprised how closely genetically related populations of wolves from different parts of the world turned out to be.

Even after centuries and millennia, predators in Europe and, say, in Alaska had common close relatives – this may be due to active migrations and their periodic crossings.

When comparing the genomes of wolves and modern dogs, it turned out that they are much closer to the predator populations from East Asia than the original European animals.

At the same time, none of the ancient wolves turned out to be the direct ancestor of dogs, so it is impossible to confidently name one specific place of their domestication.

Dogs are descended from two different populations of wolves 2
Dogor, a wolf cub from Yakutia, 18 thousand years old

The authors concluded that two different populations of wolves could become the material for domestication.

One had a common ancestor and lived in northeastern Europe, Siberia and North America. At the same time, dogs from the Middle East, from Africa and from southern Europe had an independent origin.

This may mean that there were two independent episodes of domestication, and later the animals merged into a single global population.

In addition, the researchers were able to find out what kind of baby animal lived 18 thousand years ago and was discovered in the Yakut permafrost nearby in 2019. Its genome was also used in the study, and as a result, there was no doubt: the sample belongs to the wolf.


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