Washington, Nov. 15 (ANI): European hunter-gatherers most likely domesticated wolves, which gradually evolved into dogs that became household pets, more than 18,000-32,000 years ago.
Senior author Robert Wayne, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology in UCLA's College of Letters and Science, said that they found that instead of recent wolves being closest to domestic dogs, ancient European wolves were directly related to them.
He asserted that this brings the genetic record into agreement with the archaeological record, asserting that Europe is where the oldest dogs are found.
For the current study, the researchers studied 10 ancient "wolf-like" animals and eight "dog-like" animals, mostly from Europe. These animals were all more than 1,000 years old, most were thousands of years old, and two were more than 30,000 years old.
The biologists studied the mitochondrial DNA of the animals, which is abundant in ancient remains. (Mitochondria are tiny sub-cellular structures with their own small genome.)
By comparing this ancient mitochondrial DNA with the modern mitochondrial genomes of 77 domestic dogs, 49 wolves and four coyotes, the researchers determined that the domestic dogs were genetically grouped with ancient wolves or dogs from Europe - not with wolves found anywhere else in the world or even with modern European wolves.
Dogs, they concluded, derived from ancient wolves that inhabited Europe and are now extinct.ayne said that that the domestication of predatory wolves likely occurred among ancient hunter-gatherer groups rather than as part of humans' development of sedentary, agricultural-based communities.
Wayne sad that if domestication occurred in association with hunter-gatherers, one can imagine wolves first taking advantage of the carcasses that humans left behind - a natural role for any large carnivore - and then over time moving more closely into the human niche through a co-evolutionary process.
The study has been published in the journal Science. (ANI)