Scientists at the Francis Crick Institute in London analyzed the genomes of 27 ancient dogs and found that they began to be domesticated about 11 thousand years ago when they were already divided into five species. In addition, scientists were able to prove that all dogs descended from one ancient population of wolves, or a small number of closely related wolf species.
A research team from the Francis Crick Institute in London was able to connect the history of dogs with the history of mankind. Scientists studied the genomes of 27 ancient dog bones found in different parts of the world and found that dogs were divided into five species 11 thousand years ago. They descended from the same ancient population of wolves, which began to be domesticated around the same time. After that, the division into breeds began. This led to the conclusion that dogs were possibly the first animals that were domesticated and remained with people even with a lifestyle change.
Descendants of ancient dog breeds have survived in North and South America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. The genetic evolution of the dog is practically the same as that of humans since people moved along with their four-legged friends, who served them for many purposes. For example, there is evidence that sled dogs appeared very early in the Arctic over 10,000 years ago. Many modern dog breeds are of European origin, however, several modern breeds such as the Australian Dingo, the New Guinea Singing Dog, and the African Basenji bear significant similarities to the five ancestors that existed 11,000 years ago.
According to study author Anders Bergstrom, numerous dog species lived in Europe between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago – even more than they do today. They were genetically descended from two breeds that lived in Siberia and the Middle East. Around the beginning of the Bronze Age, all species were supplanted by a single genetic line with common ancestors, which spread across the continent. Then dogs spread much wider and faster than humans.
At that time, no human migrations were discovered that could provoke such a massive spread of ancient dogs – this remained the main mystery for scientists. Although they proved that domesticated dogs existed 11 thousand years ago, this process’s dynamics and distribution are still a mystery. Indeed, already in this initial period of domestication, several groups of dogs were genetically different from each other. “The history of dogs is so dynamic that it is not easy to read in genetic lines. It remains a fascinating mystery to us,” says Dr. Pontus Skoglund.