A new study led by University of California, Davis, wildlife genetics researchers provides a surprising glimpse into the global heritage of both wild and domestic dogs.
Results from the study, which examined the DNA of 642 dogs, suggest that European and American canine 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.
Findings from the study by collaborators in California, Iran, Taiwan and Israel appear online in the journal Public Library of Science (PLoS) One.
“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 in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
Sacks said that it was particularly surprising to find that Middle Eastern dogs had almost no influence on Western breeds, even though Europe is geographically closer to the Middle East than to Southeast Asia.
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. The findings also indicate that Southeast Asia likely played an important role in the evolution of Western breed dogs.
In order to compare the evolutionary relationships between the dogs of Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, the researchers analyzed DNA samples from nine wild members of the dog family and 633 domestic dogs. The domestic dogs were mostly from villages in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
By Ben Sacks, Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, (530) 754-9088