It’s hard to imagine man without dog, and it turns out you’d have to go way way back in time to meet a man without a dog. Researchers from the Swedish Museum of Natural History have taken a closer look at a really old piece of wolf bone and they say it contains proof that dogs have walked beside man for far longer than they originally thought.
Give A Dog A Bone
Researchers did a number of things to their tiny, five-centimeter piece of bone. The first thing though, was dating it. They say the wolf bone is 35,000 years old! Next they sequenced the genome of the bone fragment, analyzing the specimen’s nuclear and mitochondrial DNA and comparing it to those of modern gray wolves and dogs. Due to the age of the bone and the number of genetic mutations it had, researchers say dogs and wolves split from their common ancestor at least 27,000 years ago and possibly as far back as 40,000 years ago!
Geneticist at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, Dr. Love Dalén, says, “Previous studies have estimated that this common ancestor lived about 10 to 15,000 years ago. But we can now show that…this wolf belonged to the population that was the last known common ancestor between wolves and dogs."
What It Means
Study leader, Dr. Pontus Skoglund, also a geneticist, explains the number of genetic mutations discovered in the piece of bone suggest there must have been a longer timescale for when modern-day wolves and dogs emerged from the family tree. Skoglund adds, “Although separation isn’t the same as domestication, this opens up the possibility that domestication occurred much earlier than we thought.”
Still, critics of the study say not to get too excited yet. Dr. Laurent Frantz, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oxford, who was not involved in the study, says more research is needed, adding, “We do not yet know whether it infers an early divergence between two wolf populations or between wolves and dogs.”
It’s clear man and dog have been the best of friends for a really long time. We’re pretty certain it was written in the stars that pups and people belong together on Earth. Besides, being an early human surely wasn’t easy—man definitely needed a friendly face by his side! You already knew your bond with Fido seems like something that was just always meant to be.