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A new study suggests that modern, domesticated dogs originated from wolves in Siberia during the Ice Age.
After examining archaeological data and analyzing the DNA of more than 200 dogs around the world, the researchers found that all modern dogs evolved out of gray wolves in eastern Siberia around 21,000 BC. These wolves split into four groups and populated North America 15,000 years ago.
Extreme weather conditions led to the close relationship between humans and dogs. As the temperatures dropped, many of the wolves’ normal prey, like wild horses and reindeer, disappeared from the area, forcing some wolves to start scavenging for food around human settlements. Eventually, the wolves formed a symbiotic relationship with the ancient Siberians, guarding them in return for food. Once this relationship was established, prehistoric humans began taming and raising wolves for other roles, like helping with hunting and pulling sleds.
The study’s findings received mixed reactions from experts. Several scientists dismissed the accuracy of its methodology, saying that the DNA analysis done on the dogs did not include the animals’ mitochondrial DNA, and without it, the origins of modern dogs could not be accurately traced.
Currently, the researchers are working on recovering DNA from ancient Siberian dog fossils to help support their study.