September 30, 2020

Ancient Wolf Genome Reveals an Early Divergence of Domestic Dog Ancestors and Admixture into High-Latitude Breeds: Current Biology

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The closest living relative of domestic dogs is the gray wolf, Canis lupus , but the number of domestication events, as well as their antiquity and geographical origin, is highly contentious. While molecular estimates of the time of origin of the dog lineage are contingent on principally unknown mutation rates and generation times, the most recent genomic estimates of the divergence between wolves and dogs date to 11,000 to 16, 000 years ago. These estimates are in considerable discord with reported archaeological evidence of dog-like canids from before the Last Glacial Maximum, which date as far back as 36,000 years before present (BP). Furthermore, a recent study showed that gray wolves from as disparate locations as China, Israel, and Croatia were symmetrically related to modern-day dogs. This observation suggests that dogs were domesticated prior to the diversification of present-day gray wolf populations or that the wild ancestors of dogs are now extinct. The latter scenario would be consistent with an earlier finding of a morphologically distinct wolf population adapted to megafaunal prey in Late Pleistocene Beringia, as well as mitochondrial DNA evidence for a Holocene replacement of European gray wolves. One hypothesis could thus be that the wild ancestors of dogs were a genetically distinct wolf population that inhabited the Late Pleistocene steppe-tundra biome and that this population was subsequently replaced, possibly by a northward postglacial expansion of smaller-bodied wolves that gave rise to modern-day wolf diversity. To test this hypothesis, we sequenced a draft genome of a Late Pleistocene wolf from northern Siberia.

Source: Ancient Wolf Genome Reveals an Early Divergence of Domestic Dog Ancestors and Admixture into High-Latitude Breeds: Current Biology

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