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Ancient DNA sheds light on our prehistory with dogs

Enlarge (credit: Elizabeth Tersigni)

Genomics researcher Anders Bergstrom and his colleagues recently sequenced the genomes of 27 dogs from archaeological sites scattered around Europe and Asia, ranging from 4,000 to 11,000 years old. Those genomes, along with those of modern dogs and wolves, show how dogs have moved around the world with people since their domestication.

All the dogs in the study descended from the same common ancestor, but that original dog population split into at least five branches as it expanded in different directions. As groups of people split apart, migrated, and met other groups, they brought their dogs along. Dog DNA suggests that their population history mirrors the story of human populations, for the most part.

“Understanding the history of dogs teaches us not just about their history, but also about our history,” said Bergstrom, of the Francis Crick Institute, in a statement.

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