Genetic Evidence of Dogs Originating From Extinct Wolf

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Many questions remain, however, a new genetic study’s surprising findings show dogs actually come from an ancient wolf that died out anywhere from 9,000 to 34,000 years ago.

Based on fossil records and estimated rates of gene mutation, experts had speculated dogs were domesticated in ancient hunter-gatherer societies long before agriculture’s rise, and that modern dogs originally descended from the same lineage as modern wolves. Many questions still remained however, and a new genetic study’s surprising findings suggests dogs may have come from an ancient wolf that went extinct.

Researchers knew they would have to account for the complexity of interbreeding between dogs and wolves. So they analyzed full genome sequences from 2 dog breeds, 3 wolf breeds, and a jackal – all strategically selected based on their unique locations and characteristics. They also included a 3rd dog breed that had been sequenced previously.

- Researchers expected the dog breeds to be similar to at least 1 of the wolf breeds. Instead, the genetic information of the modern Australian dingo, African basenji, and European boxer showed absolutely no similarity with that of the modern wolves from Croatia, Israel, or China.

Since dogs have no living ancestor, researchers will need to go back to ancient wolf remains to complete the picture. Results did indicate both wolves and dogs had very low populations at the time dogs split from their wolf ancestor anywhere from 9,000 to 34,000 years ago, perhaps due to human activities and food supply.