For years, scientists have debated where dogs came from. Did wolves first forge their special relationship with humans in Europe, or in Asia? The answer, according to a new study, is yes. This week in Science, researchers report that genetic analysis of hundreds of canines reveals that dogs may have been domesticated twice, once in Asia and once in Europe or the Near East, although European ancestry has mostly vanished from today’s dogs. The findings could resolve a rift that has roiled the canine origins community—but the case isn’t closed yet.
“These are fantastic data that are going to be extremely valuable for the field,” says Peter Savolainen, a geneticist at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and the leading proponent of Asian dog origins. But Robert Wayne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, whose work has shown that dogs arose in Europe, says the results—although plausible—are too preliminary to settle the question. “The story is still a bit of a muddle.”
The study includes a unique specimen: the inner ear bone of a nearly 5000-year-old dog unearthed from Newgrange, a football field – sized mound of dirt and stone on the east coast of Ireland, built around the time of Stonehenge. Researchers led by Laurent Frantz, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, sequenced this specimen’s entire nuclear genome—the first complete genome from an ancient dog to be published—and compared it to the nuclear DNA of 605 modern dogs from…