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Dogs Were Once Wolves Who Gradually Became Our Beloved Pets

By: Buzz Staff

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Last Updated: July 07, 2022, 15:01 IST

The study suggests that Late Pleistocene hunters-gatherers in Eurasia had a surplus of meat that they could share with incipient dogs. (Photo: Canva)

The study suggests that Late Pleistocene hunters-gatherers in Eurasia had a surplus of meat that they could share with incipient dogs. (Photo: Canva)

The research analysed 72 ancient wolf genomes spanning the last 1,00,000 years.

Dogs are believed to have originated from wolves but it is still unclear where and how the domestication of these four-legged wild animals began. Now, a study conducted by an international team of researchers brings us one step closer to unravelling this mystery. Led by Francis Crick Institute, a team of researchers has found traces of ancestry of dogs in two different populations of ancient wolves. Dogs were one of the first animals to be domesticated by humans, especially the mobile hunter-gatherers. Humans and wolves were two competing species in an overlapping ecological system. The unsolved question remained that how humans have managed to domesticate a competitive species.

Published in the journal Nature, the research analysed 72 ancient wolf genomes spanning the last 1,00,000 years. These samples came from ancient wolves excavated, including a perfectly preserved head of a Siberian wolf that lived 32,000 years ago.

With the collaborative efforts of 38 institutions in 16 different countries, the study found that the early dogs from regions like Europe, Siberia, and America, have one shared source belonging to eastern regions of the world. Whereas, the early dogs from regions like Africa, the Middle East, and Southern Europe share ancestry from wolves found in the Middle East, along with the eastern source.

The study suggests that Late Pleistocene hunters-gatherers in Eurasia had a surplus of meat that they could share with incipient dogs. That might have been how the competitive species gradually turned into companions, guards and beasts of burden, thus starting the process of dogs becoming the beloved pets they are now, as they kept undergoing evolutionary changes.

“By trying to place the dog piece into the picture, we found that dogs derive ancestry from at least two separate wolf populations – an eastern source that contribute to all dogs and a separate more westerly source, that contributed to some dogs,” said Anders Bergstrom, co-first author of the study, in a statement.

The study is also focusing on exactly where the domestication of wolves and dogs started. For developing solid results, they are also considering genomes from locations that were not included in the study, like southerly regions.

Researchers found cases where the mutation spread to large distances which suggested high connectivity of wolf species across regions. “This connectivity is perhaps a reason why wolves managed to survive the Ice Age while many other large carnivores vanished,” said Pontus Skoglund, senior author of the study.

Summarising the research, the study suggests that the domestication of wolves was carried out with two different populations – eastern and western Eurasia – who then got mixed together. But most parts of the domestication lie in the eastern region. This also explains the dual ancestry found during the analysis.

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first published:July 07, 2022, 15:01 IST
last updated:July 07, 2022, 15:01 IST