(ORDO NEWS) — Paleogeneticists have deciphered the genomes of 70 ancient wolves and found that modern dog breeds from Eurasia and Africa originated from different populations. The work was published in the journal Nature. The press service of the British Francis Crick Institute (FCI) announced the results on Wednesday.
Scientists suggest that humans tamed dogs in the Stone Age. This can be explained by the omnivorous ancestors of dogs, able to eat the same food as their neighbors – Homo sapiens.
However, it is not yet clear when exactly this happened. There is evidence of both relatively late and early domestication. This could have happened both 10-18 thousand years ago, and more than 36 thousand years ago.
Several regions claim to be the ancestral home of pets, including Europe, Altai, Nepal and the Middle East. In recent years, geneticists and archaeologists have leaned towards the Siberian origin of all dogs.
This is indicated by findings on Zhokhov Island in Eastern Siberia, as well as the genomes of the oldest American dogs, which turned out to be similar to Siberian huskies and other sled dogs.
A New History of the Origin of Dogs
Researchers found that modern dogs had not one, but several ancestors at once when they studied 72 genomes of ancient wolves. Their remains have been found in recent years in Western Europe, Siberia and Alaska.
Using samples of ancient DNA, scientists tracked the change in the structure of the genomes of wolves over the past hundred thousand years.
This information was used by paleogenetics in the analysis and comparison of the genomes of several hundred modern dogs, as well as the so-called red wolves, a rare representative of the canine family, which is considered one of the closest relatives of modern and ancient wolves and dogs.
“We have deciphered a large number of genomes of ancient wolves, which allowed us to reveal a detailed picture of their evolution, including at the time of domestication of dogs.
Comparison of the genomes of ancient dogs and wolves showed that the first human companions come from at least two separate populations of wolves – eastern and Western,” said Anders Bergstrom, FCI researcher, quoted by the institute’s press service.
Calculations confirmed that almost all modern dog breeds from Europe, Asia, and the New World actually descended from the ancient Siberian dogs, as well as related wolf populations that lived in the east of Eurasia.
At the same time, scientists have found that a small but significant group of ancient and modern dogs, bred in Africa and the Middle East, also descended from other ancestors. These include basenjis and mongrel dogs from African villages.
Approximately half of the genome of dogs inherited from western wolf populations. This suggests that they were either domesticated independently of other dog breeds, or that their ancestors actively interbred with African and Middle Eastern wolf populations immediately after domestication.
The discovery greatly complicates the history of the domestication of the first four-legged human companions, the scientists concluded.
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