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Dogs’ origins lie in Europe

First domesticated canines did not live in China or Middle East, DNA study finds

2:06pm, November 14, 2013

OLD DOGS  Analysis of DNA from fossils, including this 26,000 year-old wolf skull found in the Trou des Nutons cave in Belgium, reveals that canines were probably first domesticated in Europe. 

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Dogs and humans became best friends in Europe more than 18,000 years ago. That’s the conclusion of a genetic study of dogs and wolves, both ancient and modern.

The time and place of dog domestication have been hotly debated, with genetic studies and archaeological finds often seeming to contradict each other. Fossils from Europe had suggested doglike creatures existed there for about 30,000 years. But some genetic studies placed the birth of domestic dogs in China or the Middle East (SN: 4/10/10, p. 12). Previous genetic studies have compared DNA from living dogs and wolves, but those efforts generally did not include ancient DNA.

Now, Olaf Thalmann of the University of Turku in Finland and colleagues have examined genetic material from fossil dogs and wolves, as well as from living animals. “The genetics point toward Europe” as

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