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Genetic Study Confirms Dogs Evolved From Asian Grey Wolves


We all know that dogs evolved from wolves. Humans tamed and cross-bred them until they became our furry friends. There have been a lot of questions about their specific genetic inheritance, and according to a new study, man’s proverbial best friend was probably a grey wolf, making contact with humans around 33,000 years ago in south-east Asia.

Eighteen millennia later, several domesticated dogs moved (or were moved) from south-east Asia toward Africa and The Middle East. The species known as Canis lupus familiaris reached Europe just 10,000 years ago, which means that they were there before civilization started thriving in the Fertile Crescent. In other words, they’ve been with us since the very beginning, before the rise of the first civilizations in history.

The details of their journey remain unknown, but the outlines of their story are written in their DNA. Scientists from Canada, Finland, Singapore, Sweden, the US and even China compared the genomes of 58 different canids, including grey wolves, indigenous dogs from north China, village dogs from Nigeria as well as more popular breeds such as the German shepherd and the Chihuahua.

A genome is something like a “genetic text,” with occasional misspellings or mutations, and every genome is in some way related to every other genome. By comparing different versions of this genetic information, you start to see a story of family connections as well as separations that happened thousands of years ago. The more genomes we can compare, the “clearer” the story gets.

The conclusion of this study is that a subgroup of dogs evolved in east Asia before migrating to the Middle East, Africa and Europe. One of these lineages later migrated back to the north of China and bred with certain east Asian lineages, after which their offspring travelled to the Americas.

This is not the first time that the grey wolf and east Asia connections have been made. A molecular biologist at the Institute of Zoology in Kunming has once again confirmed this theory, as the indigenous Chinese dogs revealed a closer link to their wolf ancestors than thought before. The scientists also noticed that the modern European breeds showed less diversity than their Asian counterparts, which suggests that they might have descended from the subset of the first dogs.

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