February 14, 2016

Ancient DNA confirms that dogs were first domesticated in Southeast Asia


I have already argued for this scenario several times (as opposed to the Neolithic West Asian one, which just makes no sense and rather seems to represent a secondary layer of dog genetics), so I'm very glad that ancient DNA research can confirm it even further.

Guo-Dong Wang, Out of southern East Asia: the natural history of domestic dogs across the world. Cell Research 2015. Open accessLINK [doi:10.1038/cr.2015.147]


The origin and evolution of the domestic dog remains a controversial question for the scientific community, with basic aspects such as the place and date of origin, and the number of times dogs were domesticated, open to dispute. Using whole genome sequences from a total of 58 canids (12 gray wolves, 27 primitive dogs from Asia and Africa, and a collection of 19 diverse breeds from across the world), we find that dogs from southern East Asia have significantly higher genetic diversity compared to other populations, and are the most basal group relating to gray wolves, indicating an ancient origin of domestic dogs in southern East Asia 33 000 years ago. Around 15 000 years ago, a subset of ancestral dogs started migrating to the Middle East, Africa and Europe, arriving in Europe at about 10 000 years ago. One of the out of Asia lineages also migrated back to the east, creating a series of admixed populations with the endemic Asian lineages in northern China before migrating to the New World. For the first time, our study unravels an extraordinary journey that the domestic dog has traveled on earth.

I will dare, once again, to challenge the age guesstimates and suggest that they are in fact notably older, maybe even double the proposed age. Notice that I tentatively associate the domestication of dogs with the massive secondary "out of SE Asia" expansion led by Y-DNA haplogroup K2 and mtDNA haplogroup R, which probably took place, at least in my understanding, at some point between the Toba catastrophe (c. 74 Ka BP) and the beginnings of the Upper Paleolithic in Western Eurasia (c. 50 Ka BP), so, yeah, c. 65 or 60 Ka BP is a good age estimate for me, more so considering that we already know of domesticated dogs far from SE Asia, in 33,000 BP.

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