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Dogs and DNA

25 January 2012

At www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120123152528.htm … various studies and attempts to trace the origin of the domestic dog by DNA have been aired over recent years, tending to home in on the Out of Africa hypothesis = sophisticated human behaviour began with modern humans. They have variously targeted Africa as a source of the domestic dog, or East Asia, and in general have ignored the far north. The discovery of a dog skull in association with humans from the Altai mountains in southern Siberia, adding to a similar find at a similar date in Belgium, has put the cat among the pigeons, so to say, as they are provisionally dated to 33,000 years ago. It is now being suggested the dog was domesticated in a diverse number of locations, and not just one – which appears logical in the face of the evidence. However, as the dog attached itself to humans, it could be said, rather than the other way round, why should we think it happened as recently as 33,000 years ago – why not in the deep past? Not only that, this explanation sidetracks the DNA evidence. The researchers also go on to say the Altai specimen is not an ancestor of modern dogs – but how is that? As DNA tends to come up with a fairly young age for the domestication of the dog, reflecting the superiority of modern humans, we may wonder if politics is in some way involved in the conclusions.

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