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Ancient DNA suggests dogs domesticated just once 40,000 years ago

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Dogs may have split from wolves in a single domestication event 40,000 years ago, per a new study in Nature Communications. The research challenges an earlier study claiming dogs were domesticated twice — in Asia and Europe.

What they found: Researchers analyzed genomes from dog fossils — including a 7,000-year-old skull found in Germany and a 5,000-year-old specimen from Ireland — and compared them to DNA from modern dogs and wolves. The rates of mutation in the genomes suggest dogs split from wolves about 40,000 years ago and then again into European and Asian breeds about 20,000 years ago, the study says. Domestication happened sometime in between.