Dogs and humans migrated together across the ancient world, DNA evidence shows

Credit: HowStuffWorks
Credit: HowStuffWorks

Dogs are one of the biggest enigmas of domestication. Despite decades of study, scientists still haven’t figured out when or where they arose, much less how or why it happened.

[Paleogenomicists Greger] Larson, [Pontus] Skoglund, and colleagues sifted through more than 2000 sets of ancient dog remains dating back nearly 11,000 years from Europe, Siberia, and the Near East.

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They selected human DNA samples from the same places and eras for which they had ancient canine DNA, and traced the genetic history of each… In many places, the team found a strong overlap between human and dog genomes. For example, farmers and their pups in Sweden about 5000 years ago both trace their ancestry to the Near East. This suggests early farmers took their dogs with them as agriculture spread throughout the continent. “Writ large, as humans moved, they moved with their dogs,” Larson says.

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But sometimes the stories didn’t match up. Farmers in Germany about 7000 years ago also came from the Near East and also lived with dogs. But those animals seem more similar to hunter-gatherer pups, which came from Siberia and Europe.

That suggests many early migrants adopted local dogs that were better adapted to their new environment.

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