By James Gorman |May 21, 2015
The ancestors of modern wolves and dogs split into different evolutionary lineages 27,000 to 40,000 years ago, much earlier than some other research has suggested, scientists reported Thursday.
The new finding is based on a bone fragment found on the Taimyr Peninsula in Siberia several years ago. When scientists studied the bone and reconstructed its genome — the first time that had been done for an ancient wolf, or any kind of ancient carnivore — they found it was a new species that lived 35,000 years ago.
Based on the differences between the genome of the new species, called the Taimyr wolf, and the genomes of modern wolves and dogs, the researchers built a family tree that shows wolves and dogs splitting much earlier than the 11,000 to 16,000 years ago that a study in 2014 concluded.
Their study also gives some dog-park bragging rights to owners of Siberian huskies and Greenland sled dogs, which have inherited a portion of their genes from the Taimyr wolf.
The history of dogs is still murky, however, because it seems that different kinds of wolves and dogs have interbred at different times in different places over the past tens of thousands of years.
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