Just exactly where dogs come from isn't quite clear, but researchers are turning to genetics and other tools to sniff out where and when an ancient wolf became man's best friend, the New York Times reports.
It notes, though, that that isn't as easy as it seems since "dog genetics are a mess." The University of Oxford's Greger Larson, though, is compiling a database of ancient DNA to complement collections of modern dog samples. He has pulled together much of the dog genetics world to help analyze ancient dog bones and DNA that's being collected from museums and other sites.
Larson says that this work will help pinpoint the timing and location of dog domestication. Once they have DNA from all the samples, he hopes that he and his colleagues will be able to identify stretches that ancient wolf ancestors passed on to their dog-like descendants and then on to modern dogs.
Larson is "growing increasingly confident that they will find what they want, and come close to settling the thorny question of when and where the tearing power of a wolf jaw first gave way to the persuasive force of a nudge from a dog's cold nose," the Times adds.