To the question ‘Where Did Dogs Come From?’, new research suggests that dogs are derived from a wolf lineage (or lineages), now extinct, from which both dogs and modern wolves diverged. The research, published earlier this month, finds that the dog breeds that scientists selected for study (including basenji and dingo) seem not to be related to their closest geographic wolf counterpart, the Israeli gray wolf and Chinese gray wolf, respectively. Rather, they “seem to have descended from an older, wolf-like ancestor common to both species.” The scientists posit that the wolf lineages and dog breeds we know today may have evolved from a common ancestor sometime between 9,000 and 34,000 years ago, when humans were still in the hunter-gatherer stage, before the rise of settled agriculture.
The research shows that “dogs are more closely related to each other than wolves,” which “suggests that part of the genetic overlap observed between some modern dogs and wolves is the result of interbreeding after dog domestication, not a direct line of descent from one group of wolves.”
Thus, the scientists say, “when you ask which wolves are dogs most closely related to, it’s none of these… because these are wolves that diverged in the recent past. It’s something more ancient that isn’t well represented by today’s wolves.”
Basenji (left) and Dingo (right), from wikimedia.org and wikipedia.org, respectively.
For the current study, see Adam H. Freedman, et al, ‘Genome sequencing highlights the dynamic early history of dogs’, inPLoS Genetics (2014, vol.10, no.1: e1004016, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1004016) (published on January 16, 2014).
You can read the results online in ScienceDaily, ‘Genomes of modern dogs and wolves provide new insights on domestication’, at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140116190137.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Ftop_news%2Ftop_science+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Top+News+–+Top+Science%29.
These findings fit well with John Bradshaw’s discussion of dog domestication from an extinct wolf lineage, in his book Dog Sense, reviewed below.