August 9, 2022

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A new study reveals the secrets of dog domestication

A new study reveals the secrets of dog domestication

There is a good reason why so many people refer to it dog as such Man’s best friend. Humans domesticated dogs more than 11,000 years ago, before we even invented agriculture. Dogs today are popular as pets and “work” in a myriad of everyday occupations alongside humans.

However, despite our initial relationship to fangsHowever, scientists do not fully understand the process by which modern dogs were domesticated and diverged from their wolves’ ancestors.

Now, recent study Published in Nature advances our understanding of canine evolution. Among other things, researchers led by scientists from the Francis Crick Institute in London discovered that modern domesticated dogs are generally more closely related to wolf ancestors from the eastern part of Eurasia (i.e. modern Asia), as opposed to the western part of Eurasia. (Modern Europe). Keep in mind that 10,000 years ago, wolves were some of the most common predators on Earth, wolves and close canid Occupied relatives every continent Save Antarctica and Australia.

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“Our study takes important steps forward on the question of dog origins,” Anders Bergstrom, one of the report’s co-authors and a scientist at the Crick Laboratory of Ancient Genomics, told Salon by email. “In studying ancient wolves that lived close to the time of dog domestication, we found that dogs in general are more closely related to ancient wolves in Asia than to ancient wolves in Europe, suggesting that there was a domestication process somewhere in the East.”

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However, this does not mean that all modern domesticated dogs came entirely from the process of domestication in eastern Eurasia.

“We found that some dogs, particularly those in Africa and the Near East, had an additional genetic contribution from a second source group to wolves, one related to wolves in the West,” Bergstrom noted.

Bergstrom concluded that “it appears that there were at least two separate groups of wolves, giving rise to a dual breed in dogs today.”

This makes dogs strangely similar to modern humans. The human genome contains about 2.5% Neanderthals DNA, meaning that we are the modern hybrid of two humans; Although, interestingly, not all humans have a lot of this DNA, and some populations do almost nothing. Likewise, dogs appear to be the modern hybrid of two different “source wolves” with slightly different genetic makeup and from different regions – although this second wolf contribution is not ubiquitous among dogs like us.


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To reach these conclusions, the scientists analyzed 72 genomes of ancient wolves, accumulated from Eurasia and North America and drawn from a period that includes the last 100,000 years of history. They then compared that data with existing information about the genetics of different dog breeds around the world.

“We found that wolf populations were closely related during the Late Pleistocene, and had lower levels of differentiation than they are today,” the scientists wrote. “This population correlation allowed us to discover natural selection across time series, including the rapid fixation of mutations in the gene IFT88 40,000 – 30,000 years ago.”

In addition, the scientists’ research helped them discover that modern dogs in Africa and the Middle East derive at least half of their ancestors from a completely separate group of wolves, which are related to the wolves of modern southwest Eurasia. This refers to “either an independent domestication process or a mixture of domestic wolves”.

“There are two scenarios that could explain the dual origin that we found in dogs,” Bergstrom explained. “First, there could have been two independent domestication processes, with the two groups coming together and merging into one. Second, there could have been only one domestication process, followed by gene flow from domestic wild wolves to dogs after dogs arrived eg the Near East. We cannot distinguish between these two scenarios at this time, but hopefully, future studies of early dogs will be able to distinguish between them.”

Bergstrom detailed the types of future research that would be needed.

“None of the ancient wolves included in our study is completely identical to either of the two source groups, indicating that the sources would have lived in parts of the world that we haven’t sampled yet,” the scientist said. “So, while our study shows that there could have been at least two sets of sources, the search for those sources will continue. Hopefully, by sampling more ancient wolf genomes from other parts of the world, future studies will be able to narrow it down. More precisely where the dogs come from.”

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In recent years, scientists have made remarkable strides in learning more about the origins of domesticated dogs, and much of this work is due to advances in genetic technology. For example, a Study 2020 It was published in Science that modern sled dogs are closely related to an ancient breed of dog that dates back at least 9,500 years.

“Together, these findings suggest long-distance travel and resource transport, in which dog sledding has been most beneficial—if not necessary,” the authors wrote in their study. After reviewing the specifics of their analysis of a 9,500-year-old dog, they added, “Our results suggest that the combination of these dogs and the invention of sled technology has facilitated human survival since the earliest Holocene era in the Arctic.”

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