Mitochondrial DNA, dogs, and Iberia

It has been over 10 years since I was last involved in an ancient DNA project focused on mitochondrias from dogs. Back then we used ancient dogs to study contamination, and the domestication study came as a bonus. This time it is a study with the only purpose to explore a part of the complex we know as dog domestication. Here we analysed parts of the mitochondrial DNA from 46 canids (including two Paleolithic wolves and six Mesolithic dogs) from Iberia. And here I have to stress that crazy amounts of work was plowed down into this piece, and most of it by Ana Elisabete Pires. She really pushed this piece all the way to publication. Although Catarina Ginja, Simon Davis, Cleia Detry and many others invested much time too.

The main message is that the mitochondrial data as we know it does not call for all genetic material in European dogs to be from Asia. The lack, or at least low frequency of hg A in older European dogs has been used to argue that previously. But as we find much of that hg in ancient Iberian dogs, and including Mesolithic Iberian dogs, this opens for the possibility that western European dogs well could have some genetic material from wild European fauna. We will see where this material takes us in the future, but already the possibility for Iberian ancestry is exciting.

Dog remains from Poças de S. Bento, photo by José Paulo Ruas