Dog lovers everywhere–especially husky enthusiasts–might want this tidbit: Thanks to the discovery of an ancient canine bone from Timyr Peninsula, Siberia, Russia, ripe for analysis, scientists have determined that dogs and wolves became separate animals a lot earlier than we thought. The genome extracted from the canine bone revealed this split between dogs and wolves occurred between 27,000 to 40,000 years ago. This is at least three times earlier than we had realized.
The Canine Bones Discovered in Taimyr Peninsula, Siberia
A first of its kind, this canine bone reveals the genetics of an ancient wolf — a new species of wolf that lived 35,000 years ago. This ancestral wolf is being called the Taimyr wolf. The Taimyr wolf was studied in Stockholm University’s lab by Pontus Skoglund of Harvard University’s genetics department, and biologist Erik Ersmark, Eleftheria Palkopoulou, and Love Dalén.
It was revealed that the Taimyr wolf’s genome was equally related to both dogs and wolves. When one thinks of dogs related to wolves, they might imagine the Siberia husky or sled dogs of the polar north. This makes sense considering their relation to Taimyr wolves.
Originally, it was understood that dogs and wolves underwent species divergence after the last Ice Age (about 16,000 years prior). The new family tree of dogs and wolves, updated thanks to the aid of carbon dating, reveals that dogs have not been wolves for far longer than anyone has realized up until now.
What do we know about the domestication of dogs and wolves?
This dog-wolf Taimyr wolf discovery gives some answers, but it doesn’t really answer questions about their interbreeding: What kinds of dogs did this? When or in what time frames did they interbreed? What regions did it occur in? The questions are always circulating in this topic. This new study does however reveal to us that our beloved dogs may have been domesticated as much as 30,000 years ago. The anthropological records show that hunter-gatherers began to farm about 12,000 years ago. Even so, one cannot say when dogs became human’s or “man’s best friend”.