Dogs Were Man’s Best Friend Earlier Than Previously Thought

Science researchers working on a 35,000 year old Siberian wolf bone shows the domestication of dogs may have happened much further back in time than previously thought. Recent genetic information gathered from the bone fragment that was found below a frozen cliff in Siberia shows that canine domestication may have occurred much earlier.

Modern dog breeds are believed to have descended from wolves domesticated by humans. When this happened has not been clear. Previously genetic research on modern-day wolves and dogs genomes estimated domestication happened between 11,000 and 16,000 years ago. This research was based on mapping how quickly the genomes mutated over time. The Siberian wolf's genome shows it was part of a population likely to be the most recent common ancestor between dogs and wolves.

Based on this, scientists estimate that the domestication of dogs occurred 27,000 to 40,000 years ago.

Swedish geneticist Love Dalén, from the Swedish Museum of Natural History, who found the wolf bone, said this new data showed the rate of mutation happened much quicker than had been assumed, which suggests domestication occurred much earlier.

Dalén said "I think one of the simplest explanations is that hunter-gatherers may have caught wolf pups, which is extremely easy to do, and kept them in captivity as sentinels against the large predators that roamed the landscapes of the last ice age - bears, cave lions,...mammoths, woolly rhinos [and] other humans."

Siberian Huskies and Greenland sled dogs share a large number of genes with the Taimyr wolf and Scientists believe that the most likely explanation for dog domestication happening this early is that Siberian domestic dog populations interbred with local wolves when they followed early human groups into northern latitudes.

The research has been published in the Current Biology journal.

(Originally reported by: ABC News)