A new study shows dogs and wolves genomes are not as closely linked as suspected to be, at least not the kind of wolves that exists today.
A study in the current issue of PLoS Genetics shows that, instead, dogs and gray wolves share common ancestor in an extinct wolf that lived on Earth thousands of years ago.An international team of researchers generated genome sequences from three gray wolves – one each from China, Croatia, and Israel, the three countries where dogs are believed to have originated per Christian Science Monitor. They then sequenced the genome of a dingo from Australia and a basenji dog from central Africa. Both regions have historically been isolated from wolf populations, stated in a press release by the University of Chicago Medical Center.
Analysts of dogs and wolves genomes show that the dogs were more closely related to each other rather than they were to the wolves. The wolves were also more closely related to each other than to the dogs.
Also, scientists did not see clear evidence linking dogs to any of the living wolves that were sampled.
“One possibility is there may have been other wolf lineages that these dogs diverged from that then went extinct,” said John Novembre, associate professor in the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Chicago and a senior author on the study.
There is still some amount of genetic overlap between some modern dogs and wolves. But this is thought to be caused by the interbreeding after dogs were domesticated, not a direct line of decent from one group of wolves, according to the press release.
“If you don’t explicitly consider such exchanges, these admixture events get confounded with shared ancestry,” he said. Admixtures are hybrids produced due to interbreeding between two different population groups. “Dog domestication is more complex than we originally thought,” said Dr.Novembre.