Extinct Japanese wolf is the closest wild relative of dogs yet found

1 month ago 20
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By Michael Le Page

Canis lupus hodophilax, Japanese wolf

The extinct Japanese wolf (Canis lupus hodophilax)

The Natural History Museum / Alamy

A squad successful Japan has sequenced the genomes of 9 depository specimens of the Japanese wolf, which went extinct much than a period ago. Their investigation shows that the Japanese wolf is much intimately related to the ancestor of dogs than immoderate different wolves recovered truthful far.

“I did not expect this decision astatine all,” says Yohey Terai astatine the Graduate University for Advanced Studies successful Japan.

It has agelong been wide that dogs evolved from grey wolves, but nary surviving wolves are peculiarly intimately related. So the prevailing proposal is that dogs evolved from a now-extinct radical of wolves. But which ones and where?

The Japanese wolf (Canis lupus hodophilax) was a subspecies that was smaller than astir grey wolves. The past recorded 1 was killed successful 1905, but respective museums successful Japan and Europe person specimens. This meant Terai and his colleagues could get insubstantial samples, mostly of bones, from which DNA could beryllium extracted.

Comparisons of these genomes with those of different wolves and dogs showed that the Japanese wolf sits connected a chiseled evolutionary subdivision of wolves that arose 20,000 to 40,000 years ago. Some of these wolves evolved into Japanese wolves portion others gave emergence to dogs.

This divided astir apt happened successful East Asia, suggesting this is wherever the nonstop wolf ancestor of dogs lived. Terai hopes to extract DNA from past wolf bones recovered successful this portion to corroborate this, but the preservation of DNA successful specified aged bones is apt to beryllium poor, helium says.

Even if it is confirmed that the wolf ancestor of dogs lived successful East Asia, this doesn’t needfully mean that dogs were domesticated there, helium says.

“It is not imaginable to find erstwhile the dogs began to person a narration with humans from the genome data,” Terai says. For this, archaeological grounds is required.

The genomes besides amusement that aft the archetypal split, determination was immoderate interbreeding betwixt the Japanese wolf lineage and aboriginal dogs. This indispensable person happened astatine slightest 10,000 years ago, due to the fact that 2 per cent of the genome of a 10,000-year-old sled canine derives from Japanese wolves. This interbreeding is apt to person occurred earlier the wolves reached Japan, the squad thinks.

Dingoes and New Guinea singing dogs person the highest magnitude of Japanese wolf DNA – astir 5.5 per cent.

Reference: bioRxiv, DOI: 10.1101/2021.10.10.463851

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