How much is that wolf in the window?

DNA evidence that dogs were first domesticated longer ago than previously thought

source: Bob Holmes
New Scientist June 21 1997 p19

DNA evidence indicates that dogs were first domesticated longer ago than previously thought. It was thought that dogs and humans first lived together when humans settled and started to farm, since the earliest achaeological evidence of a link, with humans buried next to skeletons of dog-like creatures, is only 14,000 years old. However, new research from the University of California, Los Angeles, has compared mitochondrial DNA from canids, and found a far older link.

The study, carried out by Carles Vila and team, looked at 162 wolves world-wide, 12 jackals, five coyotes, and 140 dogs from 67 breeds. Analyses revealed that wolves are more closely related to dogs than jackals or coyotes, and there are at least four different lines that can be traced from dogs to wolves. There was also a large variation in the mitochondrial DNA of dogs, which Vila believes means that dogs originated far longer ago than 14,000 years, and he estimates that the origin of dogs occurred some 135,000 years ago. This research is reported more fully in Science (1997), vol 276, p1687.