March 01, 2008

Northern dogs, ancient and modern

This is an interesting study because it highlights once again a very important point: conclusions about prehistoric events based on modern populations should always be taken with a grain of salt. In this case, modern Scandinavian dogs harbor an mtDNA haplogroup at high frequency (HgD) not found in other dog breeds. This led previous research into the erroneous conclusion that there was an ancient dog domestication event in prehistoric Scandinavia. However, when one looks at actual ancient Scandinavian dogs, one fails to find HgD. Thus the suggestion that modern northern European dogs are similar to ancient northern European dogs is not supported.

BMC Evol Biol. 2008 Feb 28;8(1):71 [Epub ahead of print]

Barking up the wrong tree: Modern northern European dogs fail to explain their origin.

Malmstrom H, Vila C, Gilbert MT, Stora J, Willerslev E, Holmlund G, Gotherstrom A.

ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Geographic distribution of the genetic diversity in domestic animals, particularly mitochondrial DNA, has often been used to infer centers of domestication. The underlying presumption is that phylogeographic patterns among domesticates were established during, or shortly after the domestication. Human activities are assumed not to have altered the haplogroup frequencies to any great extent. We studied this hypothesis by analyzing 24 mtDNA sequences in ancient Scandinavian dogs. Breeds originating in northern Europe are characterized by having a high frequency of mtDNA sequences belonging to a haplogroup rare in other populations (HgD). This has been suggested to indicate a possible origin of the haplogroup (perhaps even a separate domestication) in central or northern Europe. RESULTS: The sequences observed in the ancient samples do not include the haplogroup indicative for northern European breeds (HgD). Instead, several of them correspond to haplogroups that are uncommon in the region today and that are supposed to have an Asian origin. CONCLUSION: Thus, we find no evidence for local domestication. We conclude that interpretation of the processes responsible for current domestic haplogroup frequencies should be carried out with caution if based only on contemporary data. They do not only tell their own story, but also that of humans.



neil craig said...

Doesn't this still mean that the Scandanavian domestication took place but that it wasn't, for some reason, as successful as the main one & that dogs from that event have thus been largely replaced.

pconroy said...


No, I don't think so.

It means that already domesticated dogs from elsewhere were present at an early age in Scandanavia, then later on a new lineage of domestic dogs were brought in, from some unknown source, who thrived and replaced most of the earlier domesticates.

— Kim said...

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