A mummified puppy discovered in Siberia is not a dog, according to new research. On the contrary, the cute and cuddly dog is actually a young wolf.
In a new study aimed at understanding dog domestication, researchers analyzed the genome of the pup, as well as the genomes of 72 ancient wolves. The puppy, which was found in Siberian permafrost in 2018 and whose lineage has since been debated, was nicknamed “Dogor” and was fully intact, with pettable fur and unbroken whiskers. At first scientists couldn’t tell if the 18,000-year-old pup was a wolf or a dog, but new analysis has revealed it was a wolf – and it wasn’t very close of the first dogs.
“We know that dogs were the first animal to be domesticated a long time ago. ice Age“, said Anders Bergström, postdoctoral researcher in ancient genomics at the Francis Crick Institute in London. But other aspects of their domestication are among the great mysteries of human prehistory, he told Live Science. “We don’t don’t know where in the world it happened,” Bergström said. “We don’t know what human group was involved, and we don’t know if it happened once or multiple times.”
The Dogor genome was one of 66 never-sequenced ancient wolf genomes studied by Bergström and his colleagues, who also examined the genomes of five previously sequenced ancient wolves and an ancient dhole, another type of wild dog that the still found today in some areas. from Asia.
Researchers were looking for clues as to where domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) has come. Obviously, dogs were domesticated from wolves (Canis lupus), but the genes of modern wolves have changed too much over the ages to reveal which wolves have abandoned their savage ways of teaming up with humans. To identify the closest wolf ancestors to early dogs, Bergström said, it’s important to look at wolves from the time dogs were domesticated — around 30,000 to 14,000 years ago.
The 72 samples spanned 100,000 years of prehistory in Europe, Siberia and northwestern North America. The genomes revealed that wolves thrived throughout the Ice Age, with a globally connected population. The most intriguing results, however, concerned the transition from wolf to dog. Researchers have found that dogs are more closely related to ancient eastern Eurasian wolves than to ancient western Eurasian wolves.
“This suggests to us that domestication probably happened somewhere in the East, somewhere in Asia, and probably not in Europe,” Bergström said. “However, Asia is, of course, very large; we can’t really pinpoint more precisely where that happened.”
Northeastern Siberia, where Dogor was found, does not appear to be ground zero for the genetic transition, Bergström said, because wolves in this region are not closely related to older dogs. But there are many other parts of Asia where ancient wolf DNA has yet to be collected and studied, so it’s possible that pre-hound wolves came from somewhere that has never been sampled.
A fuzzy story
The genomic analysis also told the researchers that Near Eastern and African dogs obtain part of their genes from an unknown source in western Eurasia. There are two possible explanations for this. The first is that dogs were domesticated in Asia and as they moved west they mixed with local wolf populations, bringing in genes from West Eurasian wolves. Another explanation could be that domestication happened twice, both in the east and in the west, and the dogs from these two domestication events eventually intermingled.
Either way, says Bergström, it must have happened before 7,200 years ago, the age of the oldest dog found in the Near East. This specimen had both eastern and western gene contributions.
“By getting even older dog genomes from the Near East or this region in general, we might be able to tell more about the fact that this was a single [process] or two domestication processes,” Bergström said.
The results were published June 29 in the journal Nature (opens in a new tab).
Originally posted on Live Science.