Dog domestication complexity

Ewen Callaway covers the active area of dog domestication research in a new Nature News article (“Dog genetics spur scientific spat”) Callaway:dog:2013.

In recent months, three international teams have published papers comparing the genomes of dogs and wolves. On some matters such as the types of genetic changes that make the two differ the researchers are more or less in agreement. Yet the teams have all arrived at wildly different conclusions about the timing, location and basis for the reinvention of ferocious wolves as placid pooches. Its a sexy field, says Greger Larson, an archaeogeneticist at the University of Durham, UK. He has won a 950,000 (US$1.5-million) grant to study dog domestication starting in October. Youve got a lot of big personalities, a lot of money, and people who want to get their Nature paper first.

Callaway discusses the divergent genetic results, and gives details about each successive analysis. The newest contender is a preprint by John Novembre and colleagues, which is freely available on the arXiv and discussed in a Haldane’s Sieve post, which has developed a good comment stream.

One reason these results have been fluctuating with the addition of more data is that the population history was complex, and a better representation of wolf and dog genomes adds the ability to reject simple models. As in human populations, there is no necessary reason to think that today’s dog populations trace their ancestry predominantly from the earliest archaeological samples of dogs. A wider sample of ancient DNA from archaeological dogs should add much more information about the process and timing of domestication.