Washington, Jan 24 (ANI): A 33,000-year-old dog skull discovered from a Siberian cave presents some of the oldest known evidence of dog domestication and suggests modern dogs may be descended from multiple ancestors.
The skull, found preserved in a cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia, together with equally ancient dog remains from a cave in Belgium, indicates that domestication of dogs may have occurred repeatedly in different geographic locations rather than with a single domestication event.
In other words, man's best friends may have originated from more than one ancient ancestor, contrary to what some DNA evidence previously has indicated.
"Both the Belgian find and the Siberian find are domesticated species based on morphological characteristics," said Greg Hodgins, a researcher at the University of Arizona's Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory and co-author of the study that reports the find.
"Essentially, wolves have long thin snouts and their teeth are not crowded, and domestication results in this shortening of the snout and widening of the jaws and crowding of the teeth," he explained.
The Altai Mountain skull is extraordinarily well preserved, said Hodgins, enabling scientists to make multiple measurements of the skull, teeth and mandibles that might not be possible on less well-preserved remains.
"The argument that it is domesticated is pretty solid. What's interesting is that it doesn't appear to be an ancestor of modern dogs," said Hodgins.
The UA's Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory used radiocarbon dating to determine the age of the Siberian skull.
At 33,000 years old, the Siberian skull predates a period known as the Last Glacial Maximum, or LGM, which occurred between about 26,000 and 19,000 years ago when the ice sheets of Earth's last ice age reached their greatest extent and severely disrupted the living patterns of humans and animals alive during that time.
Neither the Belgian nor the Siberian domesticated lineages appear to have survived the LGM.
However, the two skulls indicate that the domestication of dogs by humans occurred repeatedly throughout early human history at different geographical locations, which could mean that modern dogs have multiple ancestors rather than a single common ancestor. (ANI)
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