A lot of work has been done on when the first wolf was domesticated to become a domestic dog. The scientists behind a recent study believe that they have come to a definitive conclusion as to when dog domestication started. They believe that they have discovered a clear picture as to the origins of the dog-human friendship.
The first point to make is that the species of wolf that was domesticated no longer exists according to genetic evidence. Often times people refer to the grey wolf as the wild ancestor of the domestic dog. Through DNA analysis they found that the dog lineage forked about 23,000 years ago. This means that a new species evolved at this time and they deduced that dogs had become distant genetically from the wolves that were their wild ancestor.
Angela Perri, of the archaeology department at Durham University said: “It’s our first definitive evidence, our first really nice smoking gun – by 23,000 years ago we have dogs domesticated.”
She’s saying that 23,000 years ago there were domestic dogs on the planet. And they believe that they’ve pinpointed the area where this first happened and it is Siberia. Scientists had been unsure for many years as to where the first domestication of the wolf took place. They had thought it might have been Europe, Central Asia or China, or all three simultaneously.
Their study indicates that domestic dogs first emerging in a region which includes parts of modern-day Russia, Canada and Alaska, namely Beringia. At the time it was the Ice Age. It would have been cold and dry and there would have been mammoths, woolly rhinos and horses in the wild as well as predators who preyed upon them including wolves and people. This would account for the presence of wolves.
It is believed that these ancient wolves would have come into contact with an isolated population of humans who had settled there for thousands of years at the time when this first split in the dog lineage, 23,000 years ago, took place. Scientist decided that the conditions were right for dog domestication to commence.
They believe that wolves would have scavenged from human campsites and settlements which led to the beginnings of a friendship or relationship between wolf and human which in turn led to the first wolves being domesticated and which over many years thereafter led to the first domestic dogs.
Genetic evidence indicates that these dogs and the people who were their early caretakers travelled west into the rest of Eurasia and east into the Americas thus spreading the domestic dog far and wide.
The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy Of Sciences of the United States Of America (PNAS).