WEDNESDAY, Jan. 27, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- The relationship between humans and man's best friend is an enduring one.
New research suggests that not only did dog domestication likely happen sometime before 23,000 years ago, but the first people to enter the Americas more than 15,000 years ago probably brought their dogs with them.
"When and where have long been questions in dog domestication research, but here we also explored the how and why, which have often been overlooked," said lead author and archaeologist Dr. Angela Perri, from the department of archaeology at Durham University in England.
For the study, an international team of researchers led by Perri looked at the archaeological and genetic records of ancient people and dogs.
Dog domestication likely took place in Siberia before people and their dogs traveled to other parts of Eurasia and into the Americas, one of the last regions to be settled by people. By this time, dogs had been domesticated, the researchers said.
"Dog domestication occurring in Siberia answers many of the questions we've always had about the origins of the human-dog relationship. By putting together the puzzle pieces of archaeology, genetics and time, we see a much clearer picture where dogs are being domesticated in Siberia, then disperse from there into the Americas and around the world," Perri said in a university news release.
According to geneticist and study co-author Laurent Frantz, from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, "The only thing we knew for sure is that dog domestication did not take place in the Americas. From the genetic signatures of ancient dogs, we now know that they must have been present somewhere in Siberia before people migrated to the Americas."
Harsh conditions in Siberia may have brought the human and wolf populations into close proximity as they sought the same prey, eventually leading to a relationship between the species that later led to dog domestication, the study authors said.
Another study co-author, Greger Larson from Oxford University, said, "Researchers have previously suggested that dogs were domesticated across Eurasia from Europe to China, and many places in between. The combined evidence from ancient humans and dogs is helping to refine our understanding of the deep history of dogs, and now points toward Siberia and Northeast Asia as a likely region where dog domestication was initiated."
Since their domestication, dogs have played a wide variety of roles in human societies.
David Meltzer from Southern Methodist University in Dallas is a study co-author and archaeologist. He said, "We have long known that the first Americans must have possessed well-honed hunting skills, the geological know-how to find stone and other necessary materials and been ready for new challenges. The dogs that accompanied them as they entered this completely new world may have been as much a part of their cultural repertoire as the stone tools they carried."
Future archaeological and genetic research will reveal how the relationship between people and dogs led to their dispersal across the globe, the study team added.
The findings were published online Jan. 25 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
National Geographic shares more information on domestic dogs.
SOURCE: Durham University, news release, Jan. 25, 2021