A recent report suggests that ancestry of the domesticated dog has been traced back to Europe.
Scientists say that European hunter-gatherers domesticated wolves over 18,000 years ago. Over time, the domesticated wolves evolved as household dogs. Researchers at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) said that DNA studies showed domestic dogs were genetically grouped with ancient dogs or wolves.
Interestingly, the studies show that the current day domestic dogs are not genetically grouped with wolves found in other parts of the world or even with modern European wolves.
"We found that instead of recent wolves being closest to domestic dogs, ancient European wolves were directly related to them," said Robert Wayne, an evolutionary biologist at UCLA. "This brings the genetic record into agreement with the archaeological record. Europe is where the oldest dogs are found."
Wayne also said that the wolf was the first known domesticated species and the only large carnivore animal to be domesticated by humans thousands of years ago. However, wolves are also believed to take advantage of human carcases that were left behind by the ancient European hunter-gatherers. As such, humans and wolves went through a co-evolutionary process.
The UCLA research studied 10 ancient wolf-like animals and 8 dog-like animals, most of them from Europe. All the animals that were studies were over 1,000 years old and two were more than 30,000 years old.
Domesticated dogs have been moved around by human owners, which the researchers said was one of the problems they faced during the study. The researchers added that the mixed dog population complicates the genetic signal used for the research.
Researchers also highlighted that some dogs were also bred with wolves, which also added to the complications the scientists faced.
The UCLA study and many previous studies are based on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which does not reflect detailed possible information. As such, scientists suggest that more analysis of DNA of ancient animals is required.