Are dogs really related to wolves?

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

dog wolf
“People tell me I look like a wolf all the time!”

Many people believe that modern dogs are descendants of the majestic gray wolf, but according to a new study, their common ancestor went extinct several thousands of years ago.

Researchers from UCLA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology ran several DNA tests and found that canines are more related to each other than to wolves.

“The common ancestor of dogs and wolves was a large, wolf-like animal that lived between 9,000 and 34,000 years ago,” said Robert Wayne, co-senior author of the study. “Based on DNA evidence, it lived in Europe.”

Human populations really took off during that time, and the scientists don’t think it’s a coincidence. Instead, they believe that this is the same time in which humans and pooches started to build relationships. “This paper is exciting for students of canine history as well as dog owners because it clarifies the events leading up to dog domestication,” stated Elaine Ostrander, an investigator at the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Although this research gives scientists a peak into how modern dogs developed, they are still left wondering why the wolf-dog ancestor went extinct.

Featured image courtesy of USFWSmidwest on Flickr. Image of German Shepherd courtesy of Kate E. Did on Flickr.