Inuit dogs can trace ancestry back to ancient Siberian wolf

Greenlandic sled dogs share DNA with 35,000 wolf from the Taimyr Peninsula

By JANE GEORGE


Here you can see how Arctic breeds split from the Taimyr wolf about 35,000 years ago in this graph from the study called “Ancient Wolf Genome Reveals an Early Divergence of Domestic Dog Ancestors and Admixture into High-Latitude Breeds.”

Inuit sled dogs can trace their ancestry back to a wolf which lived in Siberia 35,000 years ago, a new study says. (PHOTO BY CLARE KINES)


Inuit sled dogs can trace their ancestry back to a wolf which lived in Siberia 35,000 years ago, a new study says. (PHOTO BY CLARE KINES)

If you think Inuit sled dogs are special, you’re right.

They have an ancient lineage that stretches across the circumpolar world, from Siberia to Greenland.

That’s according to a new study, published May 21 in the academic journal Current Biology, which traces the descent of huskies back to wolves that lived in Siberia some 35,000 years ago.

The study shows the Siberian husky and Greenland sled dogs can trace part of their ancestry to a now-extinct wolf from Siberia’s Taimyr Peninsula.

“I think it is likely that Inuit ancestors brought husky-type dogs to the New World Arctic, and our study suggests that at some point along the way, or even earlier than that, their dogs interbred with Arctic wolves,” lead author Pontus Skoglund, an expert in ancient DNA at the Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute, told Nunatsiaq News.

For the study, his team looked at a 35,000-year-old rib bone from the wolf.

“We find that this individual belonged to a population that diverged from the common ancestor of present-day wolves and dogs very close in time to the appearance of the domestic dog lineage,” the study said.

The study also demonstrates that the ancestry of present-day dogs comes from multiple regional wolf populations — not just a single gray wolf population — because high-latitude dogs, like Inuit sled dog breeds, still have some of that ancient Taimyr wolf’s DNA.

The DNA from the Taimyr wolf is found in today’s dog breeds from northeast Siberia and Greenland which share between 1.4 per cent and 27.3 per cent of their ancestry with the wolf — and that same DNA is also found in Chinese Shar-Pei and the Finnish spitz.

Analysis of this ancient bone from the Taimyr Peninsula allowed scientists to determine a link between an ancient wolf and present-day dog breeds. (PHOTO COURTESY OF LOVE DALEN)


Analysis of this ancient bone from the Taimyr Peninsula allowed scientists to determine a link between an ancient wolf and present-day dog breeds. (PHOTO COURTESY OF LOVE DALEN)

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