Sunday, 25 October 2015

Dogs 'can trace origins to Central Asia'

By Paul Rincon
Science editor, BBC News website

20 October 2015 

Today's dogs can trace their origins to Central Asia, according to one of the most comprehensive genetic surveys yet.

Dogs are the most diverse animal on the planet - a legacy of thousands of years of selective breeding by humans.

But they derive from wild wolves that were gradually tamed and inducted into human hunting groups - perhaps near Mongolia or Nepal.

The findings come from an analysis of DNA from thousands of pooches, and are published in PNAS journal.

Cornell University's Dr Adam Boyko and his colleagues studied 4,676 purebred dogs from recognised breeds, as well as 549 "village dogs" - free-ranging animals that live around human settlements.

They hitched themselves to us, which was a pretty good gamble as it turned outDr Adam Boyko, Cornell University

This latter group are the least studied, yet represent a crucial piece in the picture of modern dog diversity.

"The fact that we looked at so many village dogs from so many different regions, we were able to narrow in on the patterns of diversity in these indigenous dogs," Dr Boyko told BBC News.

Dog domestication is the kind of event that could have taken place independently in different corners of the globe. But the DNA of modern pooches doesn't provide any support for this idea.

"We looked exclusively to see if there was evidence of multiple domestication events. And like every other group that's looked for that, we found no evidence of it," said Dr Boyko.

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