Dog was one of the very first domesticated animals, even before humans herded sheep, pigs, or cows. A new study published in the journal Nature has found that dogs evolved, and were domesticated, from two different wolf populations – once in East Asia and once in Europe. The Old World humans formed a unique bond with the gray wolf that, over time, changed in temperament and body. Their teeth and skulls shrank, and they became less frightening.
Scientists compared DNA of ancient dogs with modern ones
Findings of the study are in line with the archaeological evidence. Fossil records suggest that the canines were domesticated in the far east and far west of the Eurasian continent, but they arrived in the middle thousands of years later. The international team of scientists was led by Laurent Frantz and Greger Larson of Oxford University. To conduct the study, scientists took DNA samples of 59 ancient dogs that lived between 3,000 and 14,000 years ago.
They also studied the complete genome of a 4,800-year-old dog fossil found at Newgrange in Ireland. Further, researchers compared the ancient DNA to that of 2,500 modern dogs. Changes in DNA indicate when and where individuals shared a common ancestor. The DNA analysis showed two origins. Larson said, “There was a really deep split between dogs in East Asia and western Eurasia.”
They evolved from gray wolves, not jackals
It means dogs were domesticated from distinct wolf populations in Eastern and Western Eurasia. Then the East Asian ones migrated with people to Europe. Some scientists have argued in the past that these animals originated in East Asia. But scientists have found dog fossils in Europe dating back 15,000 years, which predates any known migration.
Past studies have shown that domesticated dogs evolved from gray wolves rather than other related animals like jackals. About 15,000 years ago, ancient humans would use them for transportation, labor, and would keep them as pets. Fossil records show that dogs were often buried near or with people.