Sunday, November 17, 2013

DNA reveals all!

 DNA analysis has given us a potent amount of information about where, how, and why ancient wolves became dogs.  First, it confirmed that despite the myriad shapes, sizes, and appearances of today's dogs, they are all descended from small gray wolves in The Middle East, China, or Northern Europe, and probably other regions.  That is, the transformation of wolves to dogs may have occurred in more than one place and time.   

However, one place it didn't happen was in North America.  A recent  study of DNA, used both the maternal and paternal lines of fossil and recent dogs.  The new analyses confirmed that American wolves have not contributed any genes to living dogs today.  Furthermore, the DNA of the ancient wolf fossils comes from  wolf lineages that no longer exist!  That is, no wolf still living contributed to dogs, alive or recently dead.  The wolves that did contribute either became extinct or they themselves all became proto dogs 

 The latest DNA discoveries, which included DNA samples from fossil wolf and dog genes, showed that today's dogs have little in common  with today's wolves anywhere in the world.  The dog's shared wolf inheritance comes not from modern wolves, but from small wolves who are now extinct.  So all those people bragging about how wolf-like their pit bulls or German Shepherds actually are mistaken, if they think that Timber wolf genes are in their dog's makeup.

Yes, I do know about real wolf-dogs: the mating of a captive wolf with a dog.  Those scientists in years to come who are tracing dog lineages will be able to trace this new lines of dogs, and will add modern wolves to the genetic mix of such wolf-dogs and their progeny.

My cousin, Dr. David Ostrach, has trained both captive wolves and wolf-dog mixes to be service dogs. David is wheelchair bound and his wolf-dogs are essential to him.  There are 100% dogs who can meet his needs.  But he prefers to train these handsome animals himself from cubs to adults.  The one I met recently, 3/4 wolf, lay quietly in a crowded restaurant for about two hours.  She didn't seek handouts at all.  Nor did she seek attention.  I patted her on the head.  She didn't object, nor did she wag her tail or look me in the eyes. She tolerated my pat, but otherwise ignored all of us.  When we left the restaurant, and she could face David, she howled to let him know she wanted to go home.  The sounds she made were definitely not a dog's.

These modern wolf-dog mixes do exist, but they aren't from the same wolf-dog ancestry that created the dogs we know today. 


  1. I have read that all dogs (including dingoes) possibly descend from South Asian wolves, which are smaller than European and North American wolves (NA wolves are the largest in the world). South Asian wolves are not extinct. Also couldn't it be that dog differences is caused by breeding? Great danes and chiwawas probably have more differences from each other than dogs as a whole to modern wolves, while dingoes who were once domesticated 6,000 years ago reverted back to being wild

  2. Very good comment. The DNA studyI'm writing about here did include the South Asian wolves, and the small Italian ones. At least the authors claim to have analyzed all extant wolves. The difference between a Chihuaja and a GreatDane is one of genes, not DNA. Genes are situated on the strands
    of the DNA.

    1. Actually DNA is the building blocks for genes. Genes contain DNA:

  3. Actually, the most recent study of DNA shows that all dogs share more DNA than they do with any wolf. Also, all extant wolves share more DNA with each other than they do with any dog. Dogs are descended from a small gray wolf which is extinct. A Chijuaha shares most of its DNA with Great Danes. What differs are the genes of size, ear shape, etc. But these aren't DNA differences. Genes on the DNA strands account for the variation among dogs.