Were Dogs Domesticated More Than Once?

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Were Dogs Domesticated More Than Once?

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Where exactly dig dogs come from? For decades, scientists have tried to find a definitive answer to this question. Did wolves forge their first human relationships in Asia or Europe? According to a new study, the answer is “yes” for both. Scientist conducted a genetic analysis of over 500 canines and found that dogs were domesticated more than once – in Europe and in Asia – although their European ancestry has vanished with time. The findings are a big step towards resolving a rift that has been roiling the scientific community for years on end. However, the case is not definitively closed yet.

The study

A unique specimen was a part of the study: the ear bone of a 4500 year old dog that was unearthed from a football field in Ireland. Researchers sequenced the entire genome of this canine and compared it to the DNA of over 600 modern dogs. They proceeded to create a family tree and found that there was a deep divide between Asian dogs and European dogs. This was hitherto unknown owing to the lack of samples.To understand when the divide occurred, the unearthed specimen was critical. The researchers used it along with the modern dog genomes to calculate the canine genetic mutation rate. The numbers suggest that the split between the East and West happened over 13,000 years ago. This analysis also shed light on a key genetic bottleneck that has been observed in Western dogs – a lack of genetic diversity that was tied to a decline in population numbers, which usually happens when a small band splits off from the main group.Taken together, these findings suggest that dogs were domesticated first in Asia before a small subset of them migrated through Eurasia to the West with their owners. This means that almost all of the modern dogs have Asian ancestry. However, there's a twist – archaeologists previously discovered the remains of a 16,000 year old dog in Germany, which goes to show that dogs were domesticated there even before the Asian dogs set foot there. Although it is not possible to say whether the dogs that evolved in Europe are an evolutionary dead end, it is safe to say that their legacy has been erased.

Going forward

However, even if the mutation rate is a bit off, it could mean that the European dogs have ancient roots as well. Moreover, interbreeding between wolves and dogs could muddy the picture. We need more samples of both ancient wolves and dogs before we solve this mystery once and for all. Hundreds of scientists from across the globe are now pooling their resources and gathering samples from all over. As of now, dual origin seems like an intriguing possibility, especially since research has indicated multiple domestication for pigs and cats as well.

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