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Quest to find when dogs became man's best friend
SCIENTISTS from the region hope to find out when and where dogs first became man's best friend by examining DNA and bones from ancient remains - of wolves as well as dogs.
The earliest conclusive evidence for domestic dogs is about 14,000 years ago, but some theories suggest dogs could have been domesticated as long as 35,000 years ago.
Arguments persist regarding where the process first began. Some researchers insist dogs were domesticated just once in East Asia - and spread from there - while others suggest the practice happened in a variety of different areas and at different times.
The project, funded by a major grant from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), will enable researchers from Durham University and Aberdeen University to apply cutting-edge techniques to examine the DNA, bones and teeth of dog remains found across Asia and Europe.
Researchers will employ new techniques to study the genetics and shapes of ancient bones and teeth to gain insights into how domestication affected the dogs biologically, and also to chart how domesticated dogs moved across the globe.
Another key finding is likely to be whether dogs were domesticated just once in one particular location and spread from there - or if the process happened a number of times in various different places across the Old World.
The three year project gets underway in October and is backed by a 950,000 grant from the NERC.