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Dogs joined us earlier than we thought

Dogs joined us earlier than we thought

An ancient bone is helping scientists improve the timeline of humanity’s relationship with our best friends: Canine companions have colored our lives for thousands of years. How old are you? Well, nobody knows for sure. However, careful carbon dating can help narrow it down.

Identification is often difficult

A canine humerus (upper arm bone) was found in Eralla Cave in the Basque Country of Spain in 1985 and can be dated between 17,410 and 17,096 years ago. In addition, several lines of analysis confirm that it is not from a wolf, but from a dog (familiar canis) comes from. This means that the old cracked humerus is the oldest dog bone to date.
Experts say this provides an incredible data point for contextualizing the domestication of dogs, while also opening up new debates about the timeline and nature of the remains of “dog-like wolves,” which are intermediates between wolves and dogs.It is still up for debate when and how dogs became wolves (the gray wolf) of their ancestors and when their domestication began.

View of Erla’s dog bone from different anglesSource: Hervella et al., J. Archaeol. Science Fiction, 2022

Although some believe the two species began diverging more than 100,000 years ago, it is generally accepted that the domestication of dogs began sometime between 40,000 and 20,000 years ago. It is possible that the process began when wolves began to associate more and more with human settlements.

However, the biological remains are difficult to identify.

The passage of time makes the work more difficult. Examination of the bones is not necessarily reliable, as the body shapes of wolves may have been more diverse in the past, perhaps showing regional differences. Thus, science identifies canine-like wolves from bones with canine and wolf-like characteristics between 15,000 and 40,000 years ago.

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AJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports In a study published in a scientific journal, researchers note that the oldest remains identified as a domestic dog — before the Erla Cave bone — come from the Upper Paleolithic in western Europe, associated with the culture known as the Magdalen, which flourished around 17,000 to 12,000 years ago. These remains were found in the Gironde, France, and Bonn-Oberkassel, Germany, and are dated to 15,114-14,237 and 14,809-13,319 years ago, respectively.

Domestication may have occurred earlier

A team led by geneticist and anthropologist Montserrat Hervela at the University of the Basque Country in Spain used several techniques to analyze the Erla bone. First, radiocarbon dating, which shortened the time since the animal last lived and breathed. Then Genetic and morphological analysis (the study of the shape of the bones) was used to identify the species, which confirmed that the owner of the bone was a domestic dog, a domesticated dog.This lineage traces the origin of these dogs to the height of the ice age, the so-called Last Glacial Maximum, which occurred about 22,000 years ago, when extreme cold gripped the land.

There are still many questions about the domestication of dogsSource: Ettore Mazza

These findings raise the possibility that wolf domestication occurred earlier than previously suggested, at least in Western Europe, where interactions between Paleolithic hunter-gatherers and wild species such as the wolf may have intensified in glacial refuges during the climate crisis. said Conchi de la Rua, an archaeologist at the University of the Basque Country ScienceAlert Scientific portal on the Internet.

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Bone dating also shows significant interbreeding with wolves and dogs. Scientists say this could mean a rethinking of the domestication process, since dog-like wolves were once thought to be the ancestors of dogs.

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