A group of researchers from Cornell University traveled around the world for seven years to gather blood samples from free-ranging dogs in villages because they believe that village dogs’ DNA could unlock dog origin mystery.
Researchers explained that these animals without an owner, and not pedigree dogs, are the true keepers of the genetic diversity of their species. Worldwide there are millions of canines that are not purebred. Plus, little research has been done on village dogs.
The research team was able to collect blood samples from more than 500 village dogs in 38 states across six continents. Adam Boyko, lead author of the study, recalls that working with dogs was easier than trying to catch tropical butterflies as he did for his Ph.D. work.
“You don’t need to hunt them down with a net. You show up, you have food, there are dogs,”
Next, researchers analyzed over 185,000 genetic markers in the sampled canines, and found that domesticated dogs may originate from central Asia, some place near Nepal or India.
Nevertheless, the team acknowledged that their findings may not provide a final answer to how domesticated dogs emerged. There may be other places around the globe where wolves were first turned into the man’s best friend.
Past studies showed that dogs may originate in Europe, Siberia, the Middle East or even China. And now there is a central Asia hypothesis, so the debate is not quite over. The oldest dog fossils were unearthed in Russia and Western Europe.
But dog origin mystery couldn’t be solved to this day because of different methods of conducting research. While some researchers analyzed fossil DNA to get to the bottom of the issue, other, studied DNA from living specimens.
Moreover, findings were conflicting because blood samples were collected in different locations and researchers analyzed their full genome, parts of the DNA, or just the Y chromosome.
For instance, in 2013 there were three conflicting studies on dog origins. One study showed that wolves were domesticated during the Agricultural Revolution. A second study said that domesticated dogs stemmed from East Asia, while a third study concluded that dogs came from Europe. The first two studies analyzed the whole genome in living animals, while the last study analyzed only mitochondrial DNA in both living and fossilized individuals.
But while the recent study may not provide a final answer, village dogs’ DNA could unlock dog origin mystery at some point in the future. Plus, Boyko’s team analyzed village dogs’ DNA, which was never done before to this extent, and used a different method of analysis called linkage disequilibrium.
Image Source: Wikimedia
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