Dr. Perri said that among ancient American dogs that have disappeared and left only traces of their genetics in some modern breeds, there are “two main groups that shared a common ancestor some 23,000 years ago.”
There is a similar split on the human side.
The names are a little hard to keep track of, but a group called Ancient North Siberians mingled with another group that Ancestral Native Americans split from about 21,000 years ago. The hypothesis suggests that the ancient Northern Siberians not only provided some genes, but also gave dogs to humans, some of which eventually emigrated to North America and took the dogs with them. As Dr. Meltzer said, “Dogs will not go into the new world without humans.”
However, the various groups in Siberia appear to have been isolated from outside contact about 30,000 years ago to 15,000 years ago. So, said Dr. Perri, what if there is “this isolated population who had no interaction with anyone outside Siberia 30,000 years ago that gave the dogs to Native American ancestors?”
The data suggests that it was the ancient Northern Siberians who had been isolated for thousands of years and were the people who first domesticated wolves, or with whom wolves domesticated and fed on leftovers or discards from hunting.
Dr. Meltzer said these Siberians lived in small groups of about 25 people in a wide, open landscape. Ancient DNA evidence shows that they married outside of their small groups and therefore had to seek out each other. “People exchange information, they exchange friends, they maybe exchange their wolf pups,” he said.
Pontus Skoglund, an old DNA expert who studies the origins of dogs at the Crick Institute in London and was not involved in the research, said, “Siberia could very well be the origins of dogs. Absolutely. “But he said it was only one possibility. He said the analysis in the work depends largely on the mitochondrial DNA, which only tracks the maternal line and is therefore incomplete.
“It’s still an open question for me,” he said. “It could also be many other corners of Eurasia.”
New information on ancient DNA extracted from Siberian dog fossils that are 18,000 years old or older could help prove or disprove the hypothesis, said Dr. Perri, and she and her colleagues are currently working on these studies.