March 18, 2010

Domestic Dogs May Have Originated In The Middle East

Modern domestic canines, long thought to have been first domesticated in Asia or Europe, may actually trace their roots back to the Middle East, a team of scientists have discovered.

The research, led by UCLA ecology and evolutionary biology professor Robert Wayne and published on March 17 in the online edition of Nature, found that dogs have more in common genetically with Middle Eastern gray wolves than any other canine species in the world.

"Genome-wide analysis now directly suggests a Middle East origin for modern dogs," Wayne said in a Wednesday press release. "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."

Wayne's team analyzed genetic data from over 900 dogs across 85 breeds, as well as 200 wild gray wolf species from North America, Europe, the Middle East, Eastern Asia, and worldwide. Using molecular genetic techniques to study look at more than 48,000 specific markers across the DNA sequence.

They found more shared markers between modern dogs and Middle Eastern wolves than species from any other location, though a degree of relation to European wolves was also discovered.

"We know that dogs from the Middle East were closely associated with humans because they were found in human burial sites" in the area, Wayne told Reuters on Wednesday, adding that the findings were "significant because this is where civilization developed, and dogs were part of that."

Co-authors for the study include Elaine Ostrander from the National Institutes of Health/National Human Genome Research Institute, Stanford University genetics professor Carlos Bustamante, a group of UCLA students, and a corps of science experts from China, Israel, Australia, Europe and Canada.


Image 2: This evolutionary tree shows dog breeds and gray wolves. Credit: UCLA


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