Dogs’ ancestors traced to two populations of wolves?

An international group of archaeologists and geneticists have discovered that the ancestry of dogs can be traced to at least two populations of ancient wolves. The breakthrough could potentially reveal a lot of answers in the arena of human prehistory and possibly reveal facts that prove when and how dogs underwent domestication.

The group led by the Francis Crick Institute, explored ancient wolf genomes to expand their understanding of the matter. They analyzed 72 ancient wolf genomes, spanning the last 1,00,000 years from Europe, Siberia, and North America. The analysis of the genomes revealed that both early and contemporary dogs share a greater genetic affinity with extinct wolves in Asia than with those in Europe, pointing to a possible domestication site in the east.

Amidst these findings, they also found evidence pointing to the contribution of DNA from two different populations of wolves. The fact that wolves were domesticated more than once, with several populations afterward mixing, is one reason for their dual origin. Another idea is that dogs were only domesticated once, and the dual ancestry is the result of these early dogs later mating with wolves in the wild. Which of these two possibilities actually happened cannot be determined at this time.

Anders Bergström, co-first author and post-doctoral researcher in the Ancient Genomics lab at the Crick, says: “Through this project we have greatly increased the number of sequenced ancient wolf genomes, allowing us to create a detailed picture of wolf ancestry over time, including around the time of dog origins.”

The team is still looking for a close old wolf relative of dogs, which could help them pinpoint more accurately when and where domestication most likely occurred. They are currently concentrating on genomes from other regions, particularly more southern ones, that were not examined in this study.

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