A new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that dogs were domesticated in Siberia by 23,000 years ago, perhaps while both people and wolves were isolated during the harsh climate of the most recent Ice Age; dogs then accompanied the first people to the Americas and traveled with them as humans rapidly dispersed across the continent starting 15,000 years ago.
Those who believe that dogs were first domesticated because ancient humans thought they were cute, think again. Dogs have been domesticated by different groups of humans in different regions of the globe. This suggests that the dogs were bringing more than their good looks to the table. There was probably something dogs did for humans that helped them survive. Wild dog domestication theories target Western Europe, Siberia, the Middle East, and East Asia as likely areas where dog-human collaboration began.
Do dogs have the same characteristics as pre-domesticated dogs?
When you think about how long dogs have been domesticated, you realize it’s a long time. It’s really quite amusing to think that domesticated dogs share similarities with their pre-domesticated ancestors, isn’t it?
It’s hard to know exactly what a dog was like before domestication, because they’re gone, but we can look to modern wolves to see major differences, and similarities, in their behavior and physical traits.
Having a “reference” genome is a critical first step in genome analysis because it provides a basis against which to compare other genetic data. A reference genome is a high-quality, standard DNA sequence of a species. Although DNA sequencing is now relatively standardized and relatively inexpensive, only 1.5% of known complex organisms (including plants and animals) have had their genome sequenced. And that’s just the known species. If estimated undiscovered species are added to the total, only 0.1% have had their genome sequence determined.
The Sanger Institute is currently leading work to sequence 70,000 species for the first time, as part of the Darwin Tree of Life Project in Britain and Ireland, and the Global Earth BioGenome Project.
Timeline: Domestication of Animals
While dogs weren’t always docile companions, research indicates they were probably one of the first animals to be domesticated by humans. In fact, genetic evidence suggests that dogs split from their wild wolf ancestors about 33,000 years ago.
When did humans domesticate other animals, and why? This timeline highlights the domestication period of 15 different animals, based on archaeological findings.