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Current Affairs

Tracing ancient dog DNA

Date: 01 November 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

A new study says that dogs were likely the first animals domesticated by humans, shedding light on the early history of dog populations and their relationship with humans.

 

Background

The study was led by scientists and archaeologists from over 10 countries. It has found that right after the Ice Age, there existed at least five different species of dogs that had distinct genetic ancestries.

 

Details

  • Studying ancient genomics involves extracting and analysing DNA from skeletal remains, which helps researchers understand evolutionary changes that happened thousands of years ago.

  • For this study, researchers sequenced ancient DNA from 27 dogs, some of which lived nearly 11,000 years ago across Europe, the Near East, and Siberia.

  • In their analysis, the researchers also included previously sequenced genomic data from five other dogs.

  • While dogs were thought to have evolved from wolves, it cannot be said for certain how and when this happened. Through their analysis, researchers have found no evidence of multiple origins of dogs from present-day wolf populations.

  • The study shows that over the last 10,000 years, the early dog lineages mixed and moved to give rise to the dogs we know today.

  • Early European dogs that were initially diverse appear to originate from two highly distinct populations, one of which is related to Near Eastern dogs and another to Siberian dogs.

  • Since dogs are humans’ oldest animal companions, studying them provides scientists insights into how far back their relationship goes, thereby increasing their understanding of human history. Research teams are still trying to figure out the human cultural context in which dogs were first domesticated.

  • Significantly, some other questions also remain unresolved. For instance, the geographic origin of dogs is still not clear and requires further probing.