Earliest Known Dog Fossils Found in Russia

New find suggests dogs were man's best friend 18,000 years earlier than previously thought.

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Dogs may have been man's best friend much earlier than previously thought, thanks to a new discovery made by Russian scientists.

Scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences say they've discovered remains of an animal that is "closely related" to the modern dog from 33,000 years ago, which is about 18,000 years earlier than many scientists believe man first domesticated dogs.

The animal was excavated from the Altai mountains in Southern Siberia. A genetic analysis of the specimen found that it was more similar to modern dogs than it is to the grey wolf, from which most scientists think modern dogs were domesticated.

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"Our analyses support the hypothesis that the Altai specimen is more closely related to domestic dogs than to extant wolves," the researchers write. "This preliminary analysis affirms the conclusion that the Altai specimen is likely an ancient dog with a shallow divergence from ancient wolves."

Scientists have been unable to come to a consensus about when man first domesticated dogs, but most believe that modern lineages of dogs began about 15,000 years ago. The Russian researchers say this discovery calls into question when and where dogs were first domesticated.

"These results suggest a more ancient history of the dog outside the Middle East or East Asia, previously suggested as centers of dog origin," they write.

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