Two different ancient wolf populations contributed DNA to modern dogs, according to a new study by an international group of geneticists and archaeologist.
Dogs are known to have descended from the gray wolf, with domestication some 15,000 years ago during the Ice Age, the Francis Crick Institute in London is reporting. What remains unknown, researches said, is where it happened and whether it occurred in one or more places.
Previous studies using the archaeological record and comparing the DNA of dogs and modern wolves have not found the answer, Crick researchers wrote in new findings released Wednesday.
In the new peer-reviewed study, published in Nature, researchers from the institute said they charted the genetic history of the gray wolf over the past100,000 years by analyzing 72 ancient genomes from Europe, Siberia, and North America.
“Through this project we have greatly increased the number of sequenced ancient wolf genomes, allowing us to create a detailed picture of wolf ancestry over time, including around the time of dog origins,” Anders Bergström, a post-doctoral researcher in the Ancient Genomics lab at the Crick said in a press release. “By trying to place the dog piece into this picture, we found that dogs derive ancestry from at least two separate wolf populations – an eastern source that contributed to all dogs and a separate more western source.” , that contributed to some dogs.”
According to the institute, the DNA came from remains of previously excavated wolves, with archaeologists from 38 institutions in 16 different countries contributing to the study.
The remains included “a complete, perfectly preserved head from a Siberian wolf that lived 32,000 years ago,” Crick researches reported. Nine different ancient DNA labs then collaborated on generating DNA sequences from the wolves.
By analyzing the genomes, scientists found that both early and modern dogs are more genetically similar to ancient wolves in Asia than those in Europe, suggesting domestication took place somewhere in the east.
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Researches also said they discovered two separate ancient wolf populations contributed DNA to dogs.
Early dogs from north-eastern Europe, Siberia, and the Americas appear to have a single, shared origin from the eastern source, the wrote in their study. But early dogs from the Middle East, Africa, and southern Europe appear to have some ancestry from another source related to wolves in the Middle East, in addition to the eastern source.
Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.