Dog DNA Study Confirms Dogs Were Domesticated 33,000 Years Ago

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Dogs have been man’s best friend for around 33,000 years, according to the latest research that studied dog DNA. Our four-legged, furry friends are most likely descendants from grey wolves, which probably made their first contact with humans somewhere in south-east Asia.

Their journey from grey wolfs to beloved pets has been an exciting one: 15,000 years ago, domesticated dogs arrived in the Middle East and Africa, making it to Europe around 10,000 years ago. It seems that by the time humans began to settle down and build farms and villages, dogs were already integral parts of their lives. They were used to guard the walls, herd the flocks and most certainly, to keep our ancestors company.

Unfortunately, we can never know the details of their journey for sure. But, there is some good news, of course. We wouldn’t even be aware of the outlines of their story if it weren’t for DNA analysis, meaning that everything is written in their DNA.

Researchers from all around the world, including China, Canada, Finland, Singapore, Sweden and the United States, compared the genomes of 58 canids: 12 grey wolves, 12 indigenous dogs from the north of china, 11 from south-east Asia, Europe and the Americas, including the Siberian husky, the Afghan hound, the Tibetan mastiff, the Chihuahua and the German shepherd.

Since each genome is a ‘text’ copied through the generations and is related to every other genome, they can tell the story of family connections and separations that happened thousands of years ago. There are also regular mutations of genomes, but the point is that the more ‘texts’ scientists have to compare, the more details we will know about their great adventure. Here’s how the scientists explain the journey of our furry friends:

“After evolving for several thousand years in east Asia, a subgroup of dogs radiated out of southern East Asia about 15,000 years ago to the Middle East, Africa as well as Europe. One of these out-of-Asia lineages then migrated back to northern China and made a series of admixtures with endemic east Asian lineages, before travelling to the Americas.”

Even though other studies already came to the conclusion that grey wolves and dogs are connected and that dogs were domesticated in east Asia, the researchers, led by Guo-Dong Wang, a molecular biologist at the Kunming Institute of Zoology, have confirmed these findings. Aside from discovering when they were domesticated, the scientists believe they can even guess at the founder population of domesticated dogs that comprised of around 4,600 dogs.


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