March 07, 2013

33,000-year old dog from the Altai

From the paper:
In conclusion, our analyses support the hypothesis that the Altai specimen is more closely related to domestic dogs than to extant wolves, but we stress the point that these analyses were limited to a single, maternally inherited locus and more sequence data would be needed to obtain a statistically well supported phylogeny and unambiguously resolve the genetic relationship of the Altai specimen. However, this preliminary analysis affirms the conclusion that the Altai specimen is likely an ancient dog with a shallow divergence from ancient wolves. These results suggest a more ancient history of the dog outside the Middle East or East Asia, previously suggested as centres of dog origin. Additional discoveries of ancient dog-like remains are essential for further narrowing the time and region of origin for the domestic dog [5].
An ancient dog with shallow divergence from ancient wolves is probably what we might expect if dogs had been domesticated by some of the first Upper Paleolithic Eurasians a few thousand years prior to the date of this particular specimen.

PLoS ONE 8(3): e57754. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057754

Ancient DNA Analysis Affirms the Canid from Altai as a Primitive Dog

Anna S. Druzhkova et al.

The origin of domestic dogs remains controversial, with genetic data indicating a separation between modern dogs and wolves in the Late Pleistocene. However, only a few dog-like fossils are found prior to the Last Glacial Maximum, and it is widely accepted that the dog domestication predates the beginning of agriculture about 10,000 years ago. In order to evaluate the genetic relationship of one of the oldest dogs, we have isolated ancient DNA from the recently described putative 33,000-year old Pleistocene dog from Altai and analysed 413 nucleotides of the mitochondrial control region. Our analyses reveal that the unique haplotype of the Altai dog is more closely related to modern dogs and prehistoric New World canids than it is to contemporary wolves. Further genetic analyses of ancient canids may reveal a more exact date and centre of domestication.



German Dziebel said...

This most ancient dog is closer to New World, pre-Columbian dogs and New World wolves, according to Fig. 4.

eurologist said...

As I have often mentioned, usage of dogs (for many reasons) would have been a huge advantage of AMHs vs. Neanderthals in West Asia and Europe. Now that we know that Europeans and (some) West Asians harbor proto-NE Asian genes -- and since their wide and even distribution this must have happened before or at the start of the Gravettian -- the introduction of dogs with westward moving proto-NE Asians seems rather plausible.

G Horvat said...

@ German. I have found no way to confirm that yet as there is no hint of the mutations detected in the article (which makes me a little suspicious). The sequence deposited in Genbank is also not accessible yet.

German Dziebel said...


Read as well as

Marc Verhaegen said...

Dogs might indeed have accompanied H.sapiens when spreading to S.Asia (c 50 ka) & to Europe (c 40 ka). Perhaps dogs help explain why sapiens could replace neandertals?

My impression FWIW:
Isotopic data suggest European sapiens had more fish & fowl in their diet than neandertals (Richards cs 2001 PNAS). Indeed, Early sapiens (vs archaic Homo) got a few wading features in parallel to herons etc.: longer (esp.tibiae) straight legs + more convergent eyes looking more downward than in neandertals + sharp spears. If they hunted fish & later ducks etc amid reeds, wolves (on land) & people (in the water) could cooperate - an ideal situation for domestication.
This might have happened perhaps c 50 ka when they lived in reed swamps in the Gulf (Tigris-Euphrate cf reed huts of Marsh Arabs), eg, they could take pups on their floating houses? This would also explain why most dogs are excellent swimmers (as opposed to wolves?).
Once dogs were domesticated, dogs protected humans also on land, so we could soon spread from the Gulf East to S.Asia (same latitude) & later North to Europe (higher latitude).
They probably already had nets (some Paleolithic venus statues wear hair-nets) & reed boats (cf their houses) or perhaps dugouts.

--marc verhaegen

Human Evolution conference London 8–10 May 2013 with Don Johanson & David Attenborough

eBook "Was Man more aquatic in the past?"

recent guest post at Greg Laden's blog