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Domestic dogs come in all shapes and sizes, but the animals we now regard as man's best friend may have originated from just two populations of wolves, research suggests. The findings, along with studies on other domesticated animals, are providing new insights into how our ancestors' lives and movements transformed these creatures forever.
The domestication of animals is regarded as one of the seminal developments in human history. It saw wild animals at first live in closer proximity to humans and then gradually evolve new traits that became beneficial to our species.
Process - Sources - Protein - Milk - Fat
The process has given us readily available sources of protein, milk and fat. It has provided animals that can help us work the land, guard our property or enable us to travel faster than we can on foot. They have also offered us valuable companionship.
But exactly how, where and when our ancestors domesticated many of the pets and livestock we have around us today is still largely a mystery. Researchers on the UnDEAD project, however, are attempting to unravel this using DNA obtained from the remains of wild and domesticated animals that lived thousands of years ago.
DNA - Animals - Dogs - Chickens - Pigs
By comparing these to the DNA from modern domestic animals like dogs, chickens and pigs, they are starting to build up a picture of where these animals came from.
"These three animals can tell us a lot about the beginning of domestication and the changing association they had with people," said Professor Greger Larson, a palaeogeneticist at the University of Oxford in the UK and coordinator of the UnDEAD project.
Dogs - Animals - Chickens - Birds - Evidence
"Dogs were the first animals to be domesticated, chickens were the earliest birds that we have evidence of domestication for and pigs were some of the earliest farm animals to be domesticated."
Their work has produced some surprising findings. Dogs, for example, were thought to have been...
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