In the remote regions of Southern Siberia researchers have found a fossil tooth and subjected it to DNA analysis. The results confirm that it belonged to one of the oldest known ancestors of the modern domesticated dog! This news published in the journal PLOS ONE by Ann Druzhkova of the Russian Institute of Molecular & Cellular Biology and colleagues from other institutes.
It is believed ancient humans domesticated dogs before the advent of agriculture about 10 kya but just when modern domestic dogs emerged as a separate species from wolves is unknown. Some previous studies have suggested this may have taken place around 100 kya but the oldest known fossil remains of modern dogs are only around 36 kyr.
The tooth fossil is being called the “Altai Dog” as it was found in Siberia’s Altai mountains which are a magnificent source of ancient relics and fossils. DNA analysis of the tooth indicates it is more closely related to modern dogs and prehistoric canids FOUND IN THE AMERICAS than it is related to wolves! The analysis also gives support for the theory of a more ancient history of domesticated dogs outside of the Middle East and East Asia than previously thought.
In another study published in May 2015 it was suggested that the human/dog relationship may go back 27 kya to even 40 kya. This conclusion was reached after DNA analysis an an ancient Taimyr wolf bone (a piece of rib) and these results clearly set back the human/dog relationship further than the previously held notion that the ancestors of modern dogs diverged from wolves no more than 16 kya which is roughly around the time of the last glacial era (ice age).
The Taimyr wolf bone represents the most recent common ancestor of modern wolves and dogs. This analysis means that either dogs were domesticated longer ago than we think OR there was a major divergence between two wolf populations at the time and one of these populations gave rise to the modern dog.
The Taimyr wolf bone is a small piece of bone found in the Taimyr Peninsula in Siberia. The DNA evidence also shows that the modern Siberian Husky and Greenland Sled Dogs share a large number of genes with the ancient Taimyr Wolf. The Taimyr Wolf is believed to have lived not long after the disappearance of Neanderthals from Europe and the arrival of modern humans into Europe and Asia.
This is a fantastic study because we are getting closer to identifying just when humans began to domesticate these animals and where exactly. More research wil be done of course and that will bring us even closer to figuring it out.