SOURCE: Current Biology, news release, May 21, 2015
THURSDAY, May 21, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- The close relationship between dogs and humans may have started 27,000 to 40,000 years ago, a new study says.
Previous estimates had suggested this bond began no more than 16,000 years ago, the researchers noted.
For the study, published May 21 in the journal Current Biology, researchers conducted a genetic analysis of a wolf bone fragment discovered on the Taimyr Peninsula in Siberia. Radiocarbon dating showed the bone was 35,000 years old, and the genetic analysis indicates that wolf represents the most recent common ancestor of modern wolves and dogs, the researchers said.
DNA in the ancient bone revealed a large number of genes in common with today's modern Siberian huskies and Greenland sled dogs.
"Dogs may have been domesticated much earlier than is generally believed," said Love Dalen, of the Swedish Museum of Natural History, in a journal news release.
Study first author Pontus Skoglund said it's still possible that a population of wolves remained relatively untamed but tracked human groups for a long time.
"The power of DNA can provide direct evidence that a Siberian husky you see walking down the street shares ancestry with a wolf that roamed Northern Siberia 35,000 years ago," Skoglund, of Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute, said in the news release.
That means that "this wolf lived just a few thousand years after Neanderthals disappeared from Europe and modern humans started populating Europe and Asia," he noted.
The ASPCA offers resources about dog behavior.