The genome of ancient European dogs is similar to that of modern dogs, reports a paper published online in Nature Communications this week. This study suggests a single geographical origin of modern dogs.
To understand the genetic relationship between ancient and modern dogs, Krishna Veeramah and colleagues analysed whole genome sequences from the remains of two Neolithic dogs found at archaeological sites in Germany (aged around 7,000 years old and around 4,700 years old) and a third, previously described dog from Ireland (around 4,800 years old). The scientists show that ancient dogs and major modern European dogs have common genetic roots, and there is a genetic continuity of domesticated dogs over the past 7,000 years from the Early Neolithic period to today. The research also estimates the timing of canine evolution, where dogs and wolves diverged 40,000 years ago, and Eastern and Western dogs diverged approximately 20,000 years ago.
Based on these data, the researchers propose that domestication of the dog took place between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago with a single geographical origin. This is in contrast with previous reports that suggested dog domestication occurred independently in Eastern and Western Eurasia.