The Aurignacian domestication of the dog.

The Goyet dog.



A few months ago during my reading up on domesticates, I posted a piece on how the mt DNA of modern dogs was 15,000 years old and traced back to China. Well, it seem that this was premature, or at best only half the picture. A study of mulitple ancient canid remains concluded that one Belgian specimen from Goyet wasn’t a wolf, but was sufficiently different to be recognised as a dog. At a staggering 31,700 years old. The oldest domesticated animal known, as far as I know at least. Prior to this the oldest domesticate was also a dog, but Russian and 14,000 years old.


Skulls compared. A: Goyet dog, B: dog, C: wolf.

The Paleolithic dogs had wider and shorter snouts and relatively wider brain cases than fossil and recent wolves. They are described as-being Husky like, but the size of large shepherd dogs. A real mans dog. I’m guessing it’s main functions were hunting and guarding the home. 

From what I’ve read of the Belyaev foxes, it only takes 20 generations to fully domesticate (10 to usable levels) a wild animal.

The discrepancy between the mt DNA and the fossil evidence (don’t get me started) is explained by this publication; Ancient DNA supports lineage replacement in European dog gene pool: insight into Neolithic South-East France, which suggests that the older Mt DNA lineages have a very different frequency, and suggesting that some were lost altogether, saying that..

Altogether, these results support the proposition that palaeogenetic studies are essential for the reconstruction of the past demographic history and the domestication process of dogs.

Which would explain why their mt DNA seems to have ‘got lost’. Prior to this I put down claims of Aurignacian dogs as a bit far fetched, but it seems they may be true. One passage, that I’ve lifted straight from John Hawks, read..

Ancient, 26,000-year-old footprints made by a child and a dog at Chauvet Cave, France, support the pet notion. Torch wipes accompanying the prints indicate the child held a torch while navigating the dark corridors accompanied by a dog

Apparently he’d never heard of this either, which means the rest of us shouldn’t feel bad about not knowing it.

14 responses to “The Aurignacian domestication of the dog.

  1. The old lineage replacement idea. Of course there are those amoung us who still maintain it hasn’t happened in human prehistory. They believe that if a haplogroup lineage doesn’t exist today all its associated genes are completely extinct.

  2. Terry: domestic animals of all sorts have been submitted to intensive artificial selection, what obviously has affected their genome to a great extent. This is not extrapolable to humans nor wild animals.

    You may have a point but lineage replacement (if total) certainly also ammounts to massive genome replacement (maybe not total but close). You don’t select the stallions only for their Y-DNA, do you?, but for their whole genetic package.

  3. “You don’t select the stallions only for their Y-DNA”.

    True. But when you buy your next stallion the new guy’s Y-chromosome will replace the old guy’s in the herd, often completely. However the old guy’s other genes will remain, in his daughters and his sons’ daughters. This turnover of Y-chromosomes is absolutely normal for animal breeding.

    Herds are usually maintained at roughly the same size so mitochondrial DNA lines also dissappear, but at a slower rate. When you think about it it’s obvious that for any population, including whole species, that remains at roughly constant numbers Y-chromosome and mtDNA lines will die out. The population doesn’t have to go through a bottleneck this to happen.

    In case you’re interested I explain it in more detail in the essay “Pedigrees” in the section [Selection].

  4. This is a very interesting study. We have as almost dogma (no pun) that dogs were first domesticated 15,000 years ago in East Asia. That’s a very interesting finding. I wish the disciplines that studied these things were more interdisciplinary than they are, so we might really start asking the right questions?

    My real question is why the Asian dogs replaced the European ones?

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  6. Caitlin Williams

    The highly vaunted story of the Asian origin of dogs 14,000-15,000 years age was performed on 85 of the 100’s of AKC breeds.
    the problem here is the AKC is a highly specialized registry of inbreeding for type. Most AKC breeds were invented and established during and since the Victorian era. The real study will be the one that brings local dog dna from all over the world into the lab. The vast majority of dogs from the beginning are not, have never been, “purebred”.

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  8. Caitlin Williams

    In my previous comment, I said, “The real study will be the one that brings local dog dna from all over the world into the lab.”
    I was delighted to see the NYT link. Thanks!

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  10. The East Asian origins of the domestic dog study is under fire from several fronts. Not only do you have the Boyko study, but now you have a new study that really is looking into all of this:

    “A team of American researchers is examining the genetics of dogs and wolves with a so-called dog chip, a device that is programmed to recognize thousands of different sites on the dog and wolf genome, not just the mitochondrial DNA studied by Dr. Savolainen. The data have not yet been published, but some of it ‘doesn’t agree completely; with an East Asian origin of dogs, Dr. O’Brien said.”

    Also, I don’t think anyone has taken into account that C. lupus also evolved in Asia, which is where you’d also have a greater amount of genetic diversity.

    BTW, no one is touching the study mentioned in this post. No one.

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