A study of the DNA patterns of dogs shows that our “best friend” among animals is also the oldest
A study on the DNA of dogs has revealed that our “best friend” in the animal world is also the oldest.
Analyzes have revealed that the domestication of the dog may have occurred around 11,000 years ago, at the end of the Ice Age.
This confirms that it was the first domesticated animal, before any other species.
Our canine companions were scattered throughout the Northern Hemisphere at that time and were already divided into five classes.
Despite the fact that European breeds spread around the world during the colonial era, there are still traces of these ancient breeds of dogs that survive in America, Africa, Asia and Oceania.
This new research fills in some gaps in the natural history of our closest companions.
Pontus Skoglund, a co-author of the study and a member of the Ancient Genomes Laboratory at the Crick Institute in London, told the BBC: “Our relationship with dogs is something unique, quite particular. When mankind was still hunter-gatherer , what was nothing but a carnivorous wild animal was domesticated. Wolves are still quite feared and threatening in many parts of the world ”.
“The question is, why did they do it? How did they manage to tame them? ”He added.
In some ways, the genetic patterns of dogs have similarities to humans, because humans preserved dogs when they moved.
But there are also notable differences.
For example, the first European dogs were initially quite diverse, presumably originated from two very different populations, one related to the Near East and the other to Siberian dogs.
But at some point, maybe a little after he started the E dad Bronze , a single lineage spread widely and replaced the other populations of dogs that were on the continent.
These patterns do not have a counterpart in the genetic patterns of the people of Europe.
“If we look back more than four or five thousand years, we can see that Europe was a very diverse place when it came to dogs. Although the European dogs we see today come in such an extraordinary variety of shapes and sizes, they are actually genetically derived from just a subset, very limited compared to the diversity that used to exist, ”says Anders Bergström, a researcher at the Crick Institute who worked in the studio.
An international team analyzed all the genomes – the complete set of genetic instructions in the nucleus of cells – from the remains of 27 ancient dogs associated with a variety of archaeological cultures. And they compared them to each other and to the DNA of current dogs.
The canine ancestors
The results revealed that breeds such as the Rhodesian Ridgeback in southern Africa and the Chichuahua and Xoloitzcuintli in Mexico maintained genetic traces of ancient indigenous breeds that inhabited this region.
Meanwhile, the history of the ancestors of dogs in East Asia is complex.
The Chinese breeds appear to derive in part from species such as the Australian dingo or the New Guinea singing dog, while the rest came from Europe and the Russian steppe.
The New Guinea singing dog is named for its melodious bark, with a pitch that turns high-pitched at the start.
Greg Larson, a co-author of the research and an academic at the University of Oxford , noted: “Dogs are our closest and oldest companion animals.”
“Using DNA from ancient dogs, they have shown us how long our shared history has been and that will help us better understand when and how this relationship began,” he added.
Dogs are believed to have evolved from wolves, who ventured into human camps perhaps in search of food.
From there, a relationship began that continued as hunting companions or guardians.
The results suggest that all dogs are derived from a single, now-extinct population of wolves, or perhaps a few but closely related.
If there were multiple domestication processes around the world, those other lineages did not contribute much in building the DNA of modern dogs.
Skoglund notes that it is not clear when that domestication occurred.
“The history of dogs has been so dynamic that it cannot be counted on to still be there to be easily read in their DNA. We really don’t know, that’s the fascinating thing about it all, ”he said.
Many other animals, such as cats, probably became our pets when humans began farming around 6,000 years ago.
Cats were probably used to control pests such as rats, which came from the garbage generated in the more densely populated settlements.
This places their domestication in cradles of agriculture like the Near East.
“For dogs, it could almost have been anywhere: cold Siberia, the warm Near East, Southeast Asia. These are all possibilities that we contemplate, ”explained Pontus Skoglund.