When did the first dog appear?
Indeed, the dog is the oldest domestic animal.
For many years it was believed that the first domestic dogs appeared in Europe and the Levant about 10-14 thousand years ago…
The well-known phrase "A dog is a man's friend" (it is necessary to add - the first friend). But in order to answer the question of where and when domestic dogs appear, serious interdisciplinary work is required. An international project is aimed at this, work on which began this year.
Indeed, the dog is the oldest domestic animal. Although this has been known for a very long time, many issues related to domestication remain poorly understood. At the same time, the emergence of domestic animals is one of the most important areas of research at the intersection of a number of sciences - biology, geology, archeology and cultural anthropology, and the urgency of this problem is obvious, especially considering Cairn Terrier and Bernese mountain dog dog breeds.
For many years it was believed that the first domestic dogs appeared in Europe and the Levant about 10-14 thousand years ago, ie. in the Final Paleolithic (Ancient Stone Age) or Early Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age). The use of new research methods (in particular, analysis of the DNA structure of modern dogs in 2002–2010 by several groups based in Sweden and the United States) showed that the place of origin of dogs can be determined with almost equal probability as Africa, the Levant or East Asia. All these works have been published in the highest-rated journals - Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS). Nevertheless, they did not bring clarity to the question of the ancestral home of dogs. It became obvious that a different approach was required to solve this most important scientific problem.
In parallel with the study of DNA, traditional research continued, combining the analysis of the morphology (i.e. size and shape) and age of the oldest dogs, as well as the Pleistocene (over 15 thousand years old) gray wolves as the direct ancestors of the domestic dog. With the development of the radiocarbon dating method, it became possible to determine the age of a bone from a very small sample, weighing no more than one gram; the usual method required at least 100-200 grams, which for unique specimens would mean serious damage, since the sample is lost during the analysis. See also: Bloodhound puppies.
As for the place of appearance of the first dogs, since the gray wolf was very widespread in Eurasia, the process of its domestication could also take place in different regions. This is typical for other domestic animals such as pigs and cows. Therefore, the search for a single "ancestral home" of dogs is, most likely, a dead end.
It was at this time (spring-summer 2012) that a large group of scientists, led by G. Larson and C. Dobney (University of Aberdeen, UK), submitted to the British National Environmenta Research Council (NERC) a project entitled "Deciphering the Domestication of the Dog Based on the Joint Analysis of Ancient DNA and a Geometric Morphometric Approach." Earlier, an international team led by G. Larson and K. Dobney carried out a large-scale project to study the emergence of domestic pigs.
According to data obtained on the basis of the application of methods of morphological study of bone remains of pigs and wild boars (mainly lower molars) and DNA analysis of the same samples from many regions of Eurasia, it was found that the first domestic pigs appeared around 8500 BC. e. in Anatolia, and then spread throughout the Near and Middle East. A separate, independent home of wild boar domestication about 6000 BC. was in China. During the implementation of this project, the methodology for studying the domestication process was improved, when both the ancestral wild form and the domestic species obtained from it are investigated.
Apparently, the declared topic was recognized as important and promising, since funding from NERC was received on the first try, as a pleasant surprise on Christmas - this decision of the foundation became known on December 21, 2012. In the spring of 2013, work began on organizing the research; in total, they are supposed to involve at least 20 regional coordinators from around the world. In December 2013, a workshop of key coordinators took place in Aberdeen (UK), to which I was also invited. At this meeting, it was decided that the study of the process of the appearance of a domestic dog would be carried out by means of a coupled analysis of morphology (the method of geometric morphometry) and ancient DNA of Pleistocene wolves and dogs - both the earliest (possibly older than 20 thousand years) and those who lived in the Mesolithic. Neolithic (New Stone Age), Paleometal (Bronze and Early Iron Age) and Middle Ages; in total - from 12 to 1 thousand years ago.