This study, along with research by other biologists, suggests that the common belief that our relationship with the dog began with the domestication of the wolf a few thousand years ago is probably wrong.
"Dog domestication is more complex that we originally thought," geneticist John Novembre said in releasing a study last January showing a surprisingly large genetic difference between dogs and modern wolves. The difference is so great that these researchers think dogs probably descended from an older, wolf like ancestor of both species.
Novembre's team studied wolves from China, Croatia and Israel in search of a likely suspect for the forerunner of dogs, but none of those candidates came through. All of them were found to be of more recent origin.
The partnership between humans and dogs probably goes back much farther than had been thought, possibly as long ago as 35,000 years, before the modern era of agriculture even began, these researchers think. Consistent with some other theories, the relationship probably began when humans were hunter gatherers, and the predecessor to the modern dog was useful during the hunt, and rewarded with scraps after the hunt was over. It was a symbiotic relationship: What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
Now, all these years later, the friendship persists. Even to the point of training a galloping, frisky animal to lie still inside a noisy, scary contraption while the world sounds like it might be coming to an end.