Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Big Search to Find Out Where Dogs Come From

Humans had dogs before any other animal, and scientists are still debating exactly when and where these ancient animals originated. A large new study being carried out at the University of Oxford may provide some answers. Scientists came up with an oversimplified, broad idea that hunter-gatherers used to take wolf puppies from their den and raised them as tamer wolves, later becoming the pets we love and cuddle with. But, this prevailing scientific opinion is hardly plausible because wolves are very hard to tame. This makes it easier to believe that dogs actually invented themselves.

Dogs are different from wolves in many ways: dogs do not travel in packs like wolves do, dogs will eat comfortably in the presence of people whereas wolves do not, and dogs’ skulls are wider and snouts are shorter than wolves’. Scientists generally agree dogs originated around 15,000 years ago, while biologists argue that dogs originated well over 30,000 years ago based on DNA and the shape of their skulls. Modern and ancient DNA sources show that dogs originated in East Asia, Mongolia, Siberia, Europe, and Africa. Unfortunately, Greger Larson, a biologist at the University of Oxford, says that a dog's DNA is very hard to identify due to the interbreeding and blending. In order to get to the bottom of this, Larson and colleague Keith Dobney persuaded "Who's Who" of dog researchers to join a broad project to analyze ancient bones and their DNA. 
This is only the beginning of this study, and when it is confirmed where and how dogs originated, it will be a huge milestone for canine science and genetics. Canine scientists need more information on mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, but this risks damaging ancient fossils. What geneticists try to establish is how different the DNA of one animal is from another. Adding ancient DNA gives many more points of reference over a long time span. Dr. Larson is hoping that the project will be able to determine whether the domestication process occurred closer to 15,000 or 30,000 years ago, and in what region it took place. But, it is not quite the date, exact location and name of the ancient hunter that some dog lovers might hope for.

I think it may be hard to access more information because ancient fossils are not to be tampered with, but in order to gain this knowledge some might have to be compromised. If scientists study ancient fossils, they can compare DNA and determine when dogs were domesticated. The fossils will also provide important information like how similar wolves' and dogs' DNA were back 15,000 years ago. Comparing the DNA of wolves and dogs now might not show much, because they are so different today. But, if scientists could access ancient DNA from both species they can compare the two when they were both similar, before any evolutionary changes may have happened. To me, it is obvious that sampling ancient fossils will open many doors and bring canine scientists to a conclusion. 

1 comment:

  1. I think that this is a very interesting article. Dogs and wolves are both very intriguing animals with their own unique characteristics as well as having a plethora of similar traits. I have never looked into this claim that this article is bringing up. Completely going against my personal beliefs, I have always just assumed that wolves were domesticated into dogs in previous times for multiple purposes; such as hunting and protection. I will now be conducting my own searches on this topic in hopes to further educate myself on how dogs came into existence as well as when they first arrived. Two interesting points brought up in this submission are that dogs have differing social behaviors to wolves, and they also have noticeably varying physical features in their skull and snout sizes. Something that I find astonishing is that we have not yet determined a more accurate timetable of when "mans best friend" first came about. The article does make sense of this statement however due to all the multiple breeds of dogs. The DNA within each breed varies, some more than another. Being a dog owner, I can only hope that one day scientists will find the answer to this great mystery.
    Kevin Buell