Dogs come from two different wolf populations

From wild wolves to pet dogs

Dogs were the first animals fed to man. According to experts, this subsidence occurred between 15,000 and 30,000 years ago, before other animal species after the advent of agriculture.

Also read: How did the cat conquer the world and feed us?

For a long time, the origin of the dog remained a mystery. That is why some do not hesitate to mention the wild dog or coyote as his ancestors. For about thirty years, scientists have now known for sure that dogs come from wolves. Researchers established a few years ago that the genetic distance between dog and wolf was 0.2% while it was 4% between coyote and wolf.

At present the ancestral nature of domestic dogs is united in the scientific community. However, many questions remain unanswered, such as the exact dates of this resurrection and how it occurred.

Numerous previous studies comparing the DNA of our domestic dogs and modern wolves with archaeological records where DNA traces were taken have failed to find answers to these questions.

In their work published in NATURE, geneticists and archaeologists at the Francis Crick Institute have studied the genomes of wolves that have lived in Europe, Siberia and North America for the past 100,000 years. To arrive at the results, the researchers worked in collaboration with nine DNA analysis laboratories that specialize in ancient genomes to generate as much data as possible.

A Siberian wolf that lived 32,000 years ago

It is not yet clear whether there are one or more wolf breeding processes.

The group of Drs. Anders Berström analyzed genetic material from 72 different individuals. This unprecedented study required the participation of 38 institutions and 16 countries. The goal is to put together this awesome genetic collection.

The ancient wolf remains to be studied include a complete head of a Siberian wolf that lived 32,000 years ago. This wolf’s head dates back to the Pleistocene. He is trapped in permafrost, the upper part of the earth that is constantly frozen. It was discovered in the summer of 2018 in Yakutia in Eastern Siberia. This wolf’s head, which is over 40 centimeters long, is still covered in fur and has bad teeth!

During the genetic analysis, the researchers realized that ancient and modern dogs were more genetically closer to the ancient Asian wolf than the ancient European wolf. This therefore suggests that wolf rearing may occur farther east than previously thought.

Previous research has estimated that wolves are bred in Asia and Europe independently. By the human population there is no contact between them. This research also suggests that only the Asian line produces our dogs today.

This new study by geneticists at the Francis Crick Institute seems to show two origins in dogs today.

Answers, but still many questions

The dual origin of dogs can be explained by the fact that gray wolves are bred more than once in different areas and then different populations mix. Scientists also offer another plausible explanation. There would have been only one domestication! But other breeds of these domesticated dogs are said to breed wild wolves. Currently, none of these assumptions are more valid than the other and it is impossible to know what prevails.

Many responses were provided thanks to this study of the genome of these 72 ancient wolves. The researchers were thus able to establish a chronology of the evolution of the DNA of wolves. And so examine the effect of natural selection. For example, they observed that over a period of 10,000 years, the genetic variant that affected the IFT88 gene, which regulates the development of skull and jaw bones, from the most rare to the present in wolves. . It is now present in all types of dogs and in all wolves.

It is likely that this evolution followed a change in the type of prey available during the Ice Age. Wolves with a skull shape are preferred by others.

Even though there are still many unanswered questions, the researchers are satisfied with their findings. “This is the first time scientists have directly traced the natural selection of a large animal on the 100,000-year timescale, seeing evolution happen in real time rather than trying to reconstruct it from scratch. ‘DNA Today’

Video: The wolves also play ball!


Bergström, A., Stanton, DWG, Taron, UH et al. “The history of gray wolf genomics reveals a double ancestry in dogs”, Nature (2022).

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