Dogs May Have Been ‘Man’s Best Friend’ Longer Than Anyone Realized

We take them in and treat them as family, and we call them ‘man’s best friend’ — but how long have man and dog lived side-by-side? A new piece of evidence suggests it may be longer than we thought — 11,000 years longer.

According to Live Science, the new information comes from a wolf bone found in Siberia, lying on the tundra in the Taimyr Peninsula. When Pontus Skoglund, who studies DNA at Harvard Medical School, began to investigate the ancient bone, he discovered something unexpected in the wolf’s genetic makeup.

An ancient Siberian wolf that no longer exists today is understood to be the ancestor of Siberian Huskies, but this bone shows that a genome from the divergence of dog and wolf happened earlier than thought.

The study author warns that this is not absolute evidence, though, that dogs were domesticated at that point:

However, the link between domestication and genetic divergence from wolves has commonly been assumed — in fact, Science Nordic suggests that there is a wide consensus that the human connection may have driven the evolution of dogs as a separate species.

While the dog and wolf had previously been thought to have diverged about 16,000 years ago, this new bone suggests it was more like 27,000 years ago — a significant difference.

Skoglund and the other authors behind the study say that while this hints at an earlier human-canine alliance than previously thought, it also tells us something else more significant, scientifically speaking: the genetic mutations that led to modern dog were far slower than previously thought.

The study authors note that this could mean that a generation of wolves was longer than the previously assumed three years, that mutations occurred at a slower rate than previously believed, or some combination of the two.

The most certain thing that was uncovered, though, is that the path from a wolf as a wild animal to a domosticated creature who would become man’s best friend is still far from clearly defined, and to know the history of canine domestication will require much more study.

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Steph Bazzle
Steph Bazzle is a homeschooling mom who likes to write about justice, equality, and religious issues.