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Dog domestication dated revised

Friday May 22nd 2015

Domestic dogs may have a pedigree that dates back almost 40,000 years to when modern humans started colonising Europe and Asia, new research has shown.

Previous studies have indicated that the ancestors of modern-day dogs diverged from wolves no more than 16,000 years ago, after the last Ice Age.

But new evidence from a small bone found in a remote region of Siberia indicates that the special relationship between man and dog is much older.

Analysis of the 35,000-year-old rib bone fragment from the Taimyr Peninsular showed that it belonged to the most recent common ancestor of modern wolves and dogs.

DNA from the bone also allowed scientists to "recalibrate" the genetic clock used to estimate rates of evolutionary change.

This is based on the rate at which species produce new mutations.

The canine rate turned out to be slower than had previously been thought, pushing back the likely point in time when wolves and dogs diverged.

Researcher Dr Love Dalen, from the Swedish Museum of Natural History, said: "Dogs may have been domesticated much earlier than is generally believed."

The findings are reported in the journal Current Biology.

Copyright Press Association 2015