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'Man's Best Friend' First Befriended in China

Domestic canines may trace their roots back 16,000 years, researchers say

TUESDAY, Sept. 15, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Swedish and Chinese researchers believe they have come close to pinpointing where and when wolves evolved into dogs.

The findings, detailed in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, place the modern dog's birthplace as south of China's Yangtze River about 16,000 years ago -- predating the era when humans in that area evolved from being hunters and gatherers to farmers.

The Swedish team, from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, had previously published a more generalized theory of the dog's origins being in East Asia. New evidence has allowed them to even suggest that several hundred tamed wolves made up the first dog pack.

"Our earlier findings from 2002 have not been fully accepted, but with our new data there will be greater acceptance. The picture provides much more detail," Peter Savolainen, a biology researcher at the institute, said in a news release issued by the Swedish Research Council.

Among the team's new findings is that these dogs were primarily used for herding or as guards, and that they may have eventually served as food for their masters and others.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about healthy pets and healthy humans.

SOURCE: The Swedish Research Council, news release, Sept. 1, 2009
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