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Has the Origin of the First Domesticated Dog Just Been Answered?

The group studied pure-bred dogs as well as street or village dogs by comparing 185,805 genetic markers. They found there were 4500 dogs of 161 breeds and 549 village dogs from 38 countries.  (Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)
The group studied pure-bred dogs as well as street or village dogs by comparing 185,805 genetic markers. They found there were 4500 dogs of 161 breeds and 549 village dogs from 38 countries. (Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

The question of where dogs first arrived on the scene has been debated by scientists for many years. Now, in a new study, scientists have tested dog DNA from around the world and it’s pointing to Central Asia.

It has been previously suggested that “man’s best friend” may have come from places like Europe, the Near East, Siberia, or Southern China. Now, in a new genetic study, scientists believe that dogs may have evolved somewhere near present-day Nepal and Mongolia.

Laura Shannon, an evolutionary geneticist at Cornell University and coauthor to the study, said:

We have a large data-set; we’ve gotten the chance to sample dogs from all over the world.

Shannon and Adam R. Boyko from Cornell University led the international group of scientists in the study. The group studied pure-bred dogs, as well as street or village dogs, by comparing 185,805 genetic markers. There were 4500 dogs of 161 breeds, and 549 village dogs from 38 countries.

Where did dogs come from? New DNA test traces the origin, reportsThe Wall Street Journal:

The 38 countries consisted of Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East, and islands to the north and east of Australia. The results were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The genetic study itself relied on the work of Greger Larson, an Oxford University professor, and others who have launched an international effort to examine ancient canines. Professor Larson complimented the researchers on their work, noting its sheer size and scope, Nature World Report published.

“It’s a really comprehensive work including all kinds of markers and a fairly good geographical coverage,” Peter Savolainen, an evolutionary geneticist at the Royal Institute of Technology, said.

“So, it gives a good picture of the overall genetic relations among today’s dogs,” added the International Business Times.

Even though the study points to Central Asia, researchers caution that the understanding of ancient DNA is still limited and incomplete. This means dogs found in this area 15,000 years ago could have already been domesticated. There is a possibility that dogs may have been brought to Mongolia via trading caravans from places like the Middle East or China.

Robert Wayne of the University of California, who had proposed a European origin for dogs in 2013 — which was based on the analysis of ancient DNA — said in an email to The Washington Post: “He didn’t buy [into] the conclusion about Central Asia. In an email, he questioned Boyko’s use of modern-day genetic material as a guide to the distant past.”

Studying domestication events can also help with the human story, too, Shannon said.

“Studying the history of organisms that we use and breed, and that we’ve had an effect on, tells us about history as well as culture and human migration,” she added.

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