Humans started bonding with dogs long before they started to colonize Asia and Europe, the new study suggests.
Prior to this study, researchers believed that the ancestors of modern dogs evolved from wild wolves approximately 16,000 years ago and started to bound with humans after the last ice age.
But latest evidence from a small bone discovered in a remote region of Siberia suggests that the special relationship between humans and dogs is a lot older.
A team of scientists analyzed the 35,000-year-old-bone that was part of a canine’s rib found on the Taimyr peninsula.
They discovered that the bone belongs to one of the most recent ancestors of both modern dogs and wolves.
The team analyzed DNA data taken from the bone and was able to recalibrate the genetic clock that helped the scientists estimate the rates of evolutionary changes.
According to the experts, this genetic data is based on the rate at which a species starts producing new mutations and evolves into a different species.
The results of the analysis revealed that dogs emerged from wolves later than previously believed.
The researchers explained that Siberian huskies that live today, as well as the Greenland sled dogs are close related to the ancient Taimyr wolf, genetically speaking.
The experts believe this wolf belonged to a population of wolves that roamed the steppe-tundra of Eurasia during the last ice age period, hunting large prey such as bison, horse and musk ox.
One of the researchers involved in the new study, Dr. Love Dalen from the Swedish Museum of Natural History, said that humans may have domesticated dogs much earlier that it was previously thought.
The scientists detailed their study’s findings in the journal Current Biology.
According to their paper, the researchers point out the fact that humans may have taken the domesticated dogs with them when they decided to migrate from Asia to North America, more than 30,000 years ago.
Dr. Pontus Skoglund, a researcher from Harvard Medical School and one of the lead authors of the new study, explained that DNA analysis can provide direct evidence that the modern Siberian husky is a descendant of an ancient wolf that lived in the north parts of Siberia approximately 35,000 years ago.
Dr. Skoglund added that this ancient wolf lived a few thousand years after the Neanderthals disappeared from Europe and the modern humans settled and started to populate Asia and Europe.
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