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Ancient DNA pushes back timing of the origin of dogs

Ancestors of domesticated canines may have split from wolves as early as 40,000 years ago

By
12:03pm, May 21, 2015
wolf fossil jaw

ANCIENT RIFT  DNA from a wolf (fossil jaw shown) that lived in Siberia some 35,000 years ago indicates dogs and wolves split earlier than thought.

Some friendships go way back. New genetic evidence suggests that the relationship between humans and dogs may have been forged as long as 40,000 years ago.

DNA analysis of an ancient wolf calibrates the split between dogs and wolves to 27,000 to 40,000 years ago. Researchers had previously calculated that the divergence happened about 11,000 to 16,000 years ago. The new dates, reported online May 21 in Current Biology, may mean that dogs were domesticated during the last Ice Age.

Paleogeneticist Love Dalén of the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm brought the ancient wolf’s bones back from a 2010 expedition to Russia’s Taimyr Peninsula in northern Siberia. The wolf roamed the Ice Age tundra about 35,000 years ago. Dalén and colleagues extracted DNA from a rib bone and deciphered the animal’s entire genetic makeup, its genome.

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