Dogs shed their lineage with the wolf 30,000 years ago and became the best friend to humans 27,000 to 40,000 years ago, said a new study, setting aside previous estimates at 16,000 years ago.
The genome from the wolf from Taimyr Peninsula in Siberia, dated 35,000 years ago, shows that the most recent common ancestor of modern wolves and dogs leading the reserchers to conclude that “Dogs may have been domesticated much earlier than is generally believed.”
Love Dalen from the Swedish Museum of Natural History, the lead writer, also said the DNA evidence of modern-day Siberian dogs shows that they share large number of genes with the ancient Taimyr wolf.
The researchers made these conclusions based on a bone found in the Taimyr Peninsula in Siberia, which they initially thought was of a wolf but genetic testing proved otherwise leading to further probe to establish that the bone was 35,000 years old and belongs to dog’s ancestor.
Though wolves are seen more in numbers in the Taimyr Peninsula, the bone is from an ancient Taimyr wolf.
“The power of DNA can provide direct evidence that a Siberian Husky you see walking down the street shares ancestry with a wolf that roamed Northern Siberia 35,000 years ago,” said Pontus Skoglund of the Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute.
The study said the wolf lived just a few thousand years after Neanderthals disappeared from Europe and modern humans started populating Europe and Asia. The paper has been published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.
“We find that this individual belonged to a population that diverged from the common ancestor of present-day wolves and dogs very close in time to the appearance of the domestic dog lineage,” said writers in their paper.
Using the directly dated ancient wolf genome to recalibrate the molecular timescale of wolves and dogs, the researchers found that the mutation rate is substantially slower than assumed by most previous studies. Hence, they suggested that the ancestors of dogs were separated from present-day wolves before the Last Glacial Maximum as was believed till now.
“We also find evidence of introgression from the archaic Taimyr wolf lineage into present-day dog breeds from northeast Siberia and Greenland, contributing between 1.4% and 27.3% of their ancestry” which they said demonstrated that the ancestry of present-day dogs is derived from multiple regional wolf populations.