The researchers examined the DNA of dogs, dating back to immediately after the last Ice Age, to learn more about the movements and patterns of ancient dogs and their relationship with humans.
By sequencing the DNA of 27 dogs in Europe, the Middle East and Siberia, team members discovered five different types of dogs with different genetic ancestors, dating back to before another animal was domesticated.
“We studied dogs from all over the ancient world and they represent a time span that goes back almost 11,000 years,” says Anna Linderholm, director of the BiG (bioarchaeology and genomics) laboratory and archaeologist at Texas A&M University.
Linderholm was part of the genomics team that extracted DNA from skeletal material to see how dogs evolved thousands of years ago, when all humans were hunters and gatherers.
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“The dog samples were collected from museums and other collections around the world and by several members of this team. Not knowing when and where dogs were domesticated, we have collected most of the known dogs from the ancient world, going back as far as possible using the best preserved canine DNA. “
According to Linderholm, samples were taken from collected dog remains such as a tooth or piece of bone. From the samples, the researchers sequenced the DNA, which enabled the team to read the genetic code that explains each dog’s ancestry and how it may have been linked to modern dogs.
“If we look at a dog’s genome, we can look at that dog’s history, its parents and their parents, and so on,” she says. “It’s like today when people do ancestry test on people to find out where they are from.”
Dogs look genetically similar, which means they have a newer common ancestor, says Linderholm.
“The five lines from over 11,000 years ago are more diverse than we have been able to identify so far,” she says. “However, all dogs seem to come from an old wolf population, a wolf population that has since disappeared. We have no connection to our current wolf population with our first domesticated dogs. “
The human-dog bond can now be seen a little more clearly, says Linderholm. When people moved, they almost always took their dogs with them.
“We see this when agriculture was introduced in Europe and other areas like the steppe in Asia,” she says.
“We see a clear connection between the movement of people and the introduction of a new type of dog. This is new, and we also don’t see this pattern repeat when we have another large population movement. At the time, humans weren’t always consistent in their actions, but we see a much greater connection between humans and their dogs, more than any other animal. “