The Line: A Story of a Hunter, a Breed and Their Bond

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But everything else is up for grabs. Some say wolves were domesticated around 10, years ago, while others say 30, Some think early human hunter-gatherers actively tamed and bred wolves. Others say wolves domesticated themselves, by scavenging the carcasses left by human hunters, or loitering around campfires, growing tamer with each generation until they became permanent companions. The only way of doing so is to look into the past. Larson, who is fast-talking, eminently likable, and grounded in both archaeology and genetics, has been gathering fossils and collaborators in an attempt to yank the DNA out of as many dog and wolf fossils as he can.

Those sequences will show exactly how the ancient canines relate to each other and to modern pooches. And already, they have yielded a surprising discovery that could radically reframe the debate around dog domestication, so that the big question is no longer when it happened, or where, but how many times. On the eastern edge of Ireland lies Newgrange, a 4,year-old monument that predates Stonehenge and the pyramids of Giza. Beneath its large circular mound and within its underground chambers lie many fragments of animal bones.

Press your finger behind your ear. And indeed, Bradley found DNA galore within the bone, enough to sequence the full genome of the long-dead dog. Larson and his colleague Laurent Frantz then compared the Newgrange sequences with those of almost modern dogs, and built a family tree that revealed the relationships between these individuals.

To their surprise, that tree had an obvious fork in its trunk—a deep divide between two doggie dynasties. One includes all the dogs from eastern Eurasia, such as Shar Peis and Tibetan mastiffs. The other includes all the western Eurasian breeds, and the Newgrange dog. The genomes of the dogs from the western branch suggest that they went through a population bottleneck—a dramatic dwindling of numbers.

Larson interprets this as evidence of a long migration.

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He thinks that the two dog lineages began as a single population in the east, before one branch broke off and headed west. This supports the idea that dogs were domesticated somewhere in China. The team calculated that the two dog dynasties split from each other between 6, and 14, years ago.

But the oldest dog fossils in both western and eastern Eurasia are older than that. Which means that when those eastern dogs migrated west into Europe, there were already dogs there.

The Line: A Story of a Hunter, a Breed and Their Bond

Many thousands of years ago, somewhere in western Eurasia, humans domesticated grey wolves. The same thing happened independently, far away in the east.


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So, at this time, there were two distinct and geographically separated groups of dogs. Along their travels, these migrants encountered the indigenous Ancient Western dogs, mated with them doggy style, presumably , and effectively replaced them.

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Less than 10 percent comes from the Ancient Western dogs, which have since gone extinct. This is a bold story for Larson to endorse, not least because he himself has come down hard on other papers suggesting that cows, sheep, or other species were domesticated twice.

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Everything else is once. They concluded that dogs were domesticated somewhere in Europe or western Siberia, between 18, and 32, years ago. By comparing the full genomes of 58 modern wolves and dogs , his team has shown that dogs in southern China are the most genetically diverse in the world. They must have originated there around 33, years ago, he says, before a subset of them migrated west 18, years later.

Those Ancient Western dogs might have just been wolves, he says. Or perhaps they were an even earlier group of migrants from the east.

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It must have happened in southern East Asia. Except, you totally can. Adam Boyko from Cornell University does, too: after studying the genes of village dogs—free-ranging mutts that live near human settlements— he argued for a single domestication in Central Asia , somewhere near India or Nepal. And clearly, Larson does as well.

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Larson adds that his gene-focused peers are ignoring one crucial line of evidence—bones. If dogs originated just once, there should be a neat gradient of fossils with the oldest ones at the center of domestication and the youngest ones far away from it. Instead, archaeologists have found 15,year-old dog fossils in western Europe, 12,year-old ones in east Asia, and nothing older than 8, years in between.


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  7. A dual domestication makes more sense. But even Larson is hedging his bets. We lack the smoking gun. Why is this so hard? Of all the problems that scientists struggle with, why has the origin of dogs been such a bitch to solve? For starters, the timing is hard to pin down because no one knows exactly how fast dog genomes change. That pace—the mutation rate—underpins a lot of genetic studies. It allows scientists to compare modern dogs and ask: How long ago must these lineages have diverged in order to build up this many differences in their genes?

    The resulting ebb and flow of genes has turned their history into a muddy, turbid mess—the homogeneous soup that Larson envisages.

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    Wolves provide no clarity. Grey wolves used to live across the entire Northern Hemisphere, so they could have potentially been domesticated anywhere within that vast range although North America is certainly out. The study informally known as the Big Dog Project was born of frustration. Back in , Larson was working hard on the origin of domestic pigs, and became annoyed that scientists studying dogs were getting less rigorous papers in more prestigious journals, simply because their subjects were that much more charismatic and media-friendly.

    The company told the court that they made the application after all their efforts to remind the couple of their debts came to naught. Felicia poured cold water on the story that they were facing homelessness, saying they have since resolved their debt problems. Skip to content. Ayanda Sithebe: Photo: Instagram Award-winning actor and comedian Ayanda Sithebe and his wife are on the brink of losing their home after allegedly failing to keep up with the monthly installments on their bond.


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