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dogs are The best, and oldest friends of human being. However, despite decades of study, we still do not know for sure when and where they were domesticated for the first time among the wolves. Some studies suggest that they started to make us company makes about 15,000 years ago, when people still hunted and we collected. Since then, they have participated in human activities vital to our survival.

Dog sledding in Greenland – Carsten Egevang / Qimmeq

An international research team led by the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE), a joint centre of the University Pompeu Fabra (UPF) and Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), and by the Globe Institute, University of Copenhagen, has discovered the origin of a group of these dogs, without which life would have been more difficult. This is the ancestor of the current sled dogs , who lived about 9.500 years ago, at the beginning of the Holocene, in the asian Arctic. The appearance of this animal adapted to the climates, cold ones and the development of the technology of the sled were able to make the human subsistence in the harsh conditions of this region of the Arctic.

The study, which occupies the front cover of the magazine “Science”, is based on the reconstruction of the genome-old of a jaw of a dog makes 9.500 years found in the island of Zhokhov (New Siberia, Russia), where they have also appeared archaeological evidence of technology sleds. In addition, we have performed genetic analysis of a fossil wolf 30,000 years old in Siberia and ten sled dogs current from Greenland. When comparing them, the team has found a big genetic similarity between the fossil of the dog Zhokhov and the sleigh modern, an indigenous race used for hunting by inuit today.

Resistant to fríoPerro sled – Carsten Egevang / Qimmeq

The genomic analysis has revealed that the sled dogs current show adaptations to the conditions and activity in the arctic climate in their genes similar to those observed in the fossil of the dog Zhokov. The team has identified the gene TRPC4, involved in the temperature sensitivity , as had already been observed in mammoths adapted to the cold. Another gene highly differentiated in the sled dogs is the gene CACNA1A, involved in the adaptation to hypoxia , with a possible beneficial role for physical activity in extreme conditions. In relation to food, came to the conclusion that neither the dog Zhokhov or the modern shot show genetic adaptations to a diet rich in starch, as do many other breeds that are adapted to the societies, agricultural.

The genomic study also has confirmed that the shooting dogs crossed at some point with a population of wolves that became extinct, as it has been detected a gene flow from wolves siberian Pleistocene.

Straps and harnesses

The research team crossed the genomic information with other archaeological evidence to reconstruct the evolutionary history of the dog Zhokhov. In recent years, have appeared in Siberia artifacts of the upper paleolithic (between 30,000 and 10,000 years ago) to cut bone, antler and ivory similar to the tools used by the inuit to modern to ensure the shoulder straps of the harness of the dogs, suggesting the ancient origins of the sleds. Tests of this technology have also appeared in Zhokhov. “The tradition of the use of dogs to pull sleds in displacements of up to 1,500 km appeared in the asian Arctic,” says Marc Manuel, the first author of the study.

together, the evidence genomic and the remains of technology suggest that the sled dogs accounted for one advantage for travel and long-distance transport of resources essential for the maintenance of the communities in the northeast of the asian Arctic at the beginning of the Holocene. “The dogs are adapted to the lifestyle of humans in the Arctic, and quite possibly were essential to carry out tasks such as hunting and food supply to the community,” says Manuel.

Given that the sled dogs are one of the lineages of dogs most ancient which have survived to the present day, the researchers believe that the information disclosed in its genome may be key in the quest for the origin of the dogs, still in question. “The dogs have accompanied for millennia the human. The combination of genomic data with archaeological evidence can shed much light on the history and evolution of dogs and also their role in human societies ancient ones”, concludes Tomàs Marquès-Bonet.

in Addition, researchers believe that this study could be useful in the development of conservation plans for the sled dogs, currently in danger of extinction.