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Dogs could be descended from ancient European wolves


A rescued timberline wolf howls at an animal sanctuary in October in Keenesburg, Colorado.


John Moore

New evidence in the long-running argument over the origins of the domestic dog indicates that the European wolf may be a top contender. 

The paper, published in Science Magazine, analyzes the mitochondrial genomes of 18 prehistoric canids (dog-like animals), in comparison with that of modern dogs and wolves. 

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By analyzing these mitochondrial genomes, the researchers found all four of the modern dog groupings that they used are phylogenetically (Relating to or based on evolutionary development or history) closer to both the modern and ancient dog species of Europe.

These ancestors hailed from different regions of Europe, including an ancient wolf from Switzerland, and two ancient dogs from Germany, according to the Washington Post. Two of the most ancient fossils weren't related to domestic dogs at all, indicating that they were failed domestication experiments. 

Further, their usage of molecular dating found that the beginnings of domestication in Europe occurred between 18,800 to 32,1000 years ago, during the Ice Age.

That evidence further indicates that dogs might have been domesticated by the earliest humans to reside on the European continent.

Further, these dates show that the domestication of modern dogs might have taken place considerably earlier in history than previously believed, as dogs began to follow groups of hunters and were eventually included into these social groups — a progression of history that has led, inexorably, to the creation of institutions such as Doggie Daycare. 

“We have to reconsider the origin of modern dogs,” said Finnish geneticist and lead paper author Olaf Thalmann to the Christian Science Monitor, “and need to include Europe into the scenario.”