Ancient Wolf DNA Could Solve Dog Origin Mystery

May 30, 2015

By Becky Oskin

Humans and dogs were constant companions well before our ancestors settled in villages and started growing crops 10,000 years ago, a new study suggests.

Genetic evidence from an ancient wolf bone discovered lying on the tundra in Siberia’s Taimyr Peninsula reveals that wolves and dogs split from their common ancestor at least 27,000 years ago. “Although separation isn’t the same as domestication, this opens up the possibility that domestication occurred much earlier than we thought before,” said lead study author Pontus Skoglund, who studies ancient DNA at Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute in Massachusetts. Previously, scientists had pegged the wolf-dog split at no earlier than 16,000 years ago.

Although the prehistoric wolf went extinct, its genetic legacy lives on in Arctic sled dogs, the team discovered. “Siberian huskies have a portion of their genome that traces back exclusively to this ancient Siberian wolf,” Skoglund told Live Science. “It’s pretty amazing that there is a special genetic connection to a wolf that roamed the tundra 35,000 years ago.”

Greenland dogs also carry some of this ancient wolf DNA, as do the Chinese Shar-Pei and the Finnish spitz, the study authors reported. The researchers plan to study what the genes do, as their role is not yet known, Skoglund said.


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3 comments on “Ancient Wolf DNA Could Solve Dog Origin Mystery

  • @OP – Genetic evidence from an ancient wolf bone discovered lying on the tundra in Siberia’s Taimyr Peninsula reveals that wolves and dogs split from their common ancestor at least 27,000 years ago.

    It is important to use ancient bones for tracking dog ancestry, because many modern species or breeds of dogs, can produce fertile hybrids with other Canid species.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canid_hybrid
    Canid hybrids are the result of interbreeding between different species of the canine (dog) family (Canidae). They often occur in the wild, in particular between domestic or feral dogs and wild native Canid.



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  • I wonder why many dogs that are genetically “closer” to the wolf type all have curly tails (Huskies, Malamutes, Spitz, Akita, Shiba-Inu – when wolves have straight tails. I also wonder where the huskies got those amazing blue eyes! Probably selective breeding by humans, but it would be interesting to know whether those traits were deliberately bred for, or whether they are a by-product of breeding for other traits. The famous study done on Russian foxes showed that floppy ears and varied coat color seemed to be a result of breeding for docility and other dog-like qualities.



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