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23 December 2011
Origins of modern dogs

Results from collaborators in California, Iran, Taiwan and Israel, suggest that European and American breeds were much more influenced by dogs from Southeast Asia than by ancient Western dogs or by dogs from the Middle East, as was previously thought.
     "The two most hotly debated theories propose that dogs originated in Southeast Asia or the Middle East," said study co-author Ben Sacks, director of the Canid Diversity and Conservation Group in the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory of the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine (USA). The laboratory is an international leader in animal genetics research and provides DNA testing and forensic analysis for numerous wildlife, companion animal and livestock species.
     "In contrast to those theories, our findings suggest that modern European and American dogs are overwhelmingly derived from dogs that were imported from Asia since the silk trade, rather than having descended directly from ancient dogs native to Europe," Sacks said.
     Other findings from the study demonstrate that Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian village dogs must have originated from a common gene pool thousands of years ago, or from distinct groups of wolves or wolf-like dogs.
     In order to compare the evolutionary relationships between the dogs of Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, the researchers analysed DNA samples from 642 canines: 9 wild members of the dog family, and 633 domestic dogs. The domestic dogs were mostly from villages in the Middle East and Southeast Asia; they also included Australian dingoes, desert-bred salukis, which are Middle Eastern sight hounds, and 93 purebred dogs representing 35 other breeds.
     The village dogs of Southeast Asia and the Middle East were chosen because they are considered to have developed independently of modern breeds and are likely to reflect the genetics of ancient dogs of their regions. The Australian dingoes and Bali dogs were included because they have been isolated from other canine populations for thousands of years.

Edited from PhysOrg.com (20 December 2011)

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