Prehistoric dog genomes reveal species diversification and spread, alongside humans, in the Paleolithic era

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Dogs and humans have lived side by side for so long, unraveling the story of the early relationship between the two mammals is a delicate task.

But new research, examining the genomic sequences of ancient dogs as far back as 11,000 years ago, further sheds light on the history of the species and humans’ role in engineering “man’s best friend.” “.

A research team led by Anders Bergström, a postdoctoral fellow at Francis Crick Institute, sequenced 27 genomes of ancient dogs from across Europe and Asia, and found that at least five major dog lines had developed. already diverse and widespread around the world 11,000 years ago, suggesting “A considerable genetic history in the Paleolithic era”.

“The dog is the oldest domestic animal and has a very long relationship with humans. Therefore, understanding the history of dogs teaches us not only their history, but also our history, ”said Dr Bergström.

Previous research has estimated that dogs likely evolved from wolves in a single location around 20,000 to 40,000 years ago, but the lack of genetic material has made it difficult to pinpoint the time and place of the split.

To date, very few entire dog and wolf genomes dating back more than a few thousand years have been available for analysis, the researchers said.

“While the antiquity of the inextricable bond between dogs and humans is well recognized, its origin – where and when it began – remains shrouded in history.”

“As a result, very little is known about the history of the prehistoric dog population and its connection to humans.”

But the new analysis, which compared the newly sequenced ancient genomes to other genomes of ancient and modern dogs, found that all dogs share a common ancestry distinct from current wolves.

He also found that since the original wolf split, there has been limited gene flow from wolves to dogs, but significant gene flow from dog to wolf.

The researchers also compared the genomes of ancient dogs with ancient human genome-wide data from similar time periods, revealing aspects of the history of dog populations that likely reflect their migration alongside human groups, as well as cases where population histories don’t seem to line up.

Together, the results “underscore the complex common history of dogs” with humans, the researchers said.

They said the study builds on previous research into domestication and early dog ​​history, including a 2016 study that found “a deep divide” between dogs in Western Eurasia and d East Asia, and a 2018 study that showed North America’s first dogs arrived. alongside humans and were not domesticated by North American wolves, but rather by an ancient breed of Siberian sled dogs.

The research is published in the journal Science.

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