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Single geographic origin of modern domestic dog

08 Aug 2017
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An article on phys.org - Modern domestic dog has a single geographic origin - reports on the DNA analysis of two prehistoric dogs from Germany which suggests that their genomes were the probable ancestors of modern European dogs.

Single geographic origin of modern domestic dog

An archaeologist entering the Kirschbaumhöhle (Cherry Tree Cave) in the Franconian Alps, where the remains of the dog that lived 4,700 years ago during the Neolithic period were found. Researchers were able to sequence the animal's complete genome. Image: Timo Seregély, University of Bamberg.

An international research team led by Krishna R. Veeramah, Ph.D., of Stony Brook University in the USA also suggests that all contemporary dogs have a common origin and emerged through a single domestication process of wolves 20,000 to 40,000 years ago. Researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) also participated in the study, the results of which recently have been published in Nature Communications: Ancient European dog genomes reveal continuity since the Early Neolithic.

Dogs were the first animals to be domesticated by humans. The oldest remains of dogs that can be clearly distinguished from those of wolves originate from what is now Germany and are about 15,000 years old. 

The skull of the 4,700-year-old Neolithic dog found in the Kirschbaumhöhle (Cherry Tree Cave) in the lab, shortly before the animal's entire genome was sequenced. Image: Amelie Scheu, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz.

However, the archaeological record is ambiguous. For example, last year were researchers able to sequence the genome of a 5,000-year-old dog from Ireland using the latest paleogenomic techniques. The results of the study led the research team at the University of Oxford to suggest dogs were domesticated not once but twice. In addition, the research team also hypothesized that an indigenous dog population domesticated in Europe was replaced by incoming migrants independently domesticated in East Asia during the Neolithic period.

 
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Conversely, Veeramah explains that the new research states that our ancient dogs from the same time period were very similar to modern European dogs, including the majority of breed dogs people keep as pets. This suggests that there was no mass Neolithic replacement that occurred on the continent and that there was likely only a single domestication process for the dogs observed in the fossil record from the Stone Age and that we also see and live with today.

Veeramah and his colleagues used the older 7,000-year-old dog to narrow the timing of dog domestication to the 20,000 to 40,000 years ago range. They found evidence that the younger, 4,700-year-old dog represents a mixture of European dogs and a population that resembles current Central Asian/Indian dogs. This finding may reflect people migrating from the Asian steppe to Europe at the beginning of the Bronze Age, bringing their own dogs with them.

Single geographic origin of modern domestic dog

The skull of the 4,700-year-old Neolithic dog was found in the Kirschbaumhöhle (Cherry Tree Cave), here still in situ before whole genome sequencing. Credit: Timo Seregély, University of Bamberg.

Essentially, analysis of entire ancient genomes sheds light on complex processes such as dog domestication; only direct insights into the past like this enable us to disentangle the effects of the many parallel and successive events that are involved, including targeted breeding by humans as well as population movements and admixture of multiple populations. Having said that, the question where exactly dogs were first domesticated in geographic terms remains a mystery. Only sequencing of additional ancient Eurasian genomes will help to eventually solve the issue.

 

Were dogs domesticated twice?
http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/news/archaeology.php?id=Dogs-domesticated-twice

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