Yet another study of the dog genome appeared earlier this week in the advanced online edition of the journal Nature, this one far more comprehensive and extensive than any previously published.
The authors of the study conclude that dogs very likely originated in the Middle East, not in Europe or in Asia.
According to Robert Wayne, UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and senior author of the Nature paper, “Dogs seem to share more genetic similarity with Middle Eastern gray wolves than with any other wolf population worldwide. Genome-wide analysis now directly suggests a Middle East origin for modern dogs. We have found that a dominant proportion of modern dogs’ ancestry derives from Middle Eastern wolves, and this finding is consistent with the hypothesis that dogs originated in the Middle East.
“This is the same area where domestic cats and many of our livestock originated and where agriculture first developed.”
Some earlier research, limited to a single sequence of mitochondrial DNA had appeared to indicate the possibility of an Eastern Asian origin. As Wayne indicates, “this was unexpected because there never was a hint in the archaeological record that dogs evolved there.”
In sharp contradistinction to the earlier highly specific study, the present research utilized genetic data from more than 900 dogs from 85 breeds and more than 200 wild gray wolves from Europe, the Middle East, East Asia and North America. They used molecular genetic techniques to analyze 48,000 distinct genetic markers.
For much more of interest concerning this intriguing study see the University of Southern California press release Dogs Likely Originated in the Middle East, New Genetic Data Indicate.
For more information on the allied study discussed in the release, see our earlier posts Geneticists in Dogged Pursuit of Selective Breeding Pawprints and Dogged Pursuit 2.)