Despite decades of study, there is still no consensus on when and where dogs were first domesticated. Some studies had pointed out that wolves and dogs evolved from a lineage of wolves that already disappeared about 15,000 years ago. Now, a research team led by the Institute for Evolutionary Biology (IBE: CSIC-UPF) and the Globe Institute in Copenhagen confirms in a study, recently published in Science, that:
- The ancestry of modern sled dogs dates back to the early Holocene in Siberia.
- The adaptations that define today’s sled dogs were established in the Northeast Asian Arctic 9,500 years ago.
- The combination of these dogs adapted to the icy climate with the development of sleds facilitated human subsistence at the end of the Pleistocene in the Arctic.
Researchers have carried out a genomic study that has allowed us to delve into how the sled dogs originated and were domesticated. Specifically, they have carried out a genomic analysis of a 9,500 year old dog fossil jaw from Zhokhov Island (New Siberia, Russia), 10 current sled dogs and a 30,000 year old wolf fossil from Siberia.
Genomic analysis has revealed that current sled dogs show adaptations to conditions and activity to the Arctic climate in their genes similar to those observed in the Zhokhov dog fossil, in particular to temperature, physical activity in extreme conditions, and low starch diet.
This study could be useful in developing conservation plans for sled dogs, currently endangered.
Arctic-adapted dogs emerged at the Pleistocene–Holocene transition. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz8599