Genetic study suggests dogs emerged independently from two wolf populations

dogs

The origin of dogs is a hot topic among biologists, who've fought over whether there's a single point of origin from wolves and when and where it (or they) happened. A new study suggests the answer is twice, independently, from populations of wolves in western Europe and in east Asia. But they interbred, so most modern dogs are descended from both western and eastern groups.

The geographic and temporal origins of dogs remain controversial. We generated genetic sequences from 59 ancient dogs and a complete (28x) genome of a late Neolithic dog (dated to ~4800 calendar years before the present) from Ireland. Our analyses revealed a deep split separating modern East Asian and Western Eurasian dogs. Surprisingly, the date of this divergence (~14,000 to 6400 years ago) occurs commensurate with, or several millennia after, the first appearance of dogs in Europe and East Asia. Additional analyses of ancient and modern mitochondrial DNA revealed a sharp discontinuity in haplotype frequencies in Europe. Combined, these results suggest that dogs may have been domesticated independently in Eastern and Western Eurasia from distinct wolf populations. East Eurasian dogs were then possibly transported to Europe with people, where they partially replaced European Paleolithic dogs.

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Huskies howl at video of howling Siberian Husky

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Crank it up and freak out your dogs, people! Read the rest

Wolf puppies are hunting for mice in the meadow

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“Wolf puppies hunting for mice. Polar Park 2014.” Read the rest

Wolves sing along to folk song in the snow

snow singing

Shawn James' American Sanctuary warms the cold Colorado winter enough to get the locals joining in. Read the rest

Raw venison for breakfast?

Wolf researcher Werner Freund chomps into a leg of deer at Wolfspark Werner Freund, in Merzig, Germany, earlier this year. (Photo: REUTERS/Lisi Niesner) Read the rest

Carn, by Jeff Le Bars

A bargain is betrayed in this animated story of boy meets wolf, with a terrible price. Read the rest

A collection of dire wolf skulls

This image shows fewer than 400 of the 1600+ dire wolf skulls found in the La Brea Tar Pits — natural seepages of asphalt that trapped thousands upon thousands of animals over centuries. Like most of you, I was familiar with what the tar pits were. But, until I visited last week, I hadn't really had a grasp of just how many animal remains have been found there. Seriously, the place is lousy with bones. As in, chunks of partially excavated asphalt look more like jumbles of bone held together with some hardened goop.

For the record, dire wolves really did exist, and they really were larger than modern wolves — but not as much larger as you might imagine from reading Game Of Thrones. There's a lot of overlap in the Bell Curves here, with the average dire wolf probably having been about the same size as the larger specimens of modern grey wolves.

Meanwhile, there are people trying to breed a dog that fits the fantasy of pet dire wolves — really big, really wolfy, and yet somehow well-behaved. It is not, however, terribly like the real-life dire wolf, in looks or genetics. Read the rest