Modern dogs were around 33,000 years ago, a new fossil analysis suggests. Researchers tested the DNA of a tooth from a skull found in southern Siberia that they were able to confirm it was more closely related to modern dogs than to wolves.It’s being called the Altai dog. The fossil was discovered in 1975 and was previously described, but the researchers only now took DNA from one of the teeth for testing.
They compared this DNA to the DNA of other prehistoric dogs, wolves, and modern dogs, then mapped out their relatedness based on how different the DNA sequences were.
The 33,000-old fossil is more closely related to dogs than to wolves.
The finding was announced Wednesday, March 6, in the journal PLoS ONE. Researchers knew that dogs were more than 10,000 years old, but the timing of their separation from wolves wasn’t confirmed.
They say this fossil shows that domesticated dogs were more widespread than they thought, and could have been around longer, as well.
If the Altai dog was really domesticated, it would push back the origin of today’s house pets more than 15,000 years and move the earliest domestication out of the Middle East or East Asia, as previous studies have suggested.
One other fossilized canine skull that could is older, dated to between 32,000 and 36,000 years old. It’s called the Goyet dog and was found in Belgium, though its DNA hasn’t been sequenced.
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