DNA Shows Dogs May have Evolved near Nepal and Mongolia

ASSOCIATED PRESS

File- A police officer sprinkles colored powder and petals onto a police dog at Nepal’s Central Police Dog Training School as part of the Tihar festival Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: AP

NEW YORK: Where did dogs first arrive on the scene? Scientists have long debated that question, and now a study of doggie DNA from around the world is pointing to Central Asia.

Man’s best friend may have evolved somewhere near what is now Nepal and Mongolia, researchers say.
Previous studies suggested that man’s best friend first evolved from wolves in China, the Middle East, Siberia and Europe, at least 15,000 years ago, Daily Mail reported.

The results of research by a team led by Adam Boyko of New York’s Cornell University were released by Washington-based journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” on Monday.

The team analysed DNA from 549 dogs that represented 38 countries in Africa, the US, Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East and islands north and east of Australia.

They said the animals were not house pets, but rather ‘village dogs’ that wandered freely in the streets or fields. The analysis, however, did not tackle the contentious question of when dogs appeared.

“I am not pretending my study alone is enough to rally the community together,” Boyko said.

Meanwhile, some other scientists did not buy the conclusion and questioned the results.

Robert Wayne of the University of California, Los Angeles, who proposed a European origin for dogs in 2013 based on analysis of ancient DNA, questioned Boyko’s use of modern-day genetic material as a guide to the distant past.

Another expert, Greger Larson of Oxford University, heaped praise on Boyko and said the paper is a ‘major step forward’ but suspected the use of modern DNA to get correct results.

“Now that Asia has been added to the mix, ‘Everyone with a favourite region can point to at least one paper that supports their suspicions’,” Larson said.

Previous studies have suggested southern China, the Middle East, Siberia and Europe as the place where our first domesticated animal arose from wolves at least 15,000 years ago.

For the new work, Adam Boyko of Cornell University and others analyzed DNA from 549 dogs that represented 38 countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East and islands north and east of Australia. The animals weren’t house pets, but rather “village dogs” that wandered freely in the streets or fields.

The researchers examined the DNA for signals of where the dogs had the most ancient roots. That pointed to Central Asia. The analysis did not tackle the contentious question of when dogs appeared.

Dogs play on a street in Lumbini, Nepal. A new study suggests that the most ancient origins of man’s best friend were in the area of Nepal and Mongolia. 2012. Photo: AP/File

Results were reported in a paper released Monday by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Even Boyko doesn’t think the work will end the debate among scientists.

“I’m not pretending my study alone is enough to rally the community together,” he said.

He’s right. Robert Wayne of the University of California, Los Angeles, who proposed a European origin for dogs in 2013 based on analysis of ancient DNA, said he didn’t buy the conclusion about Central Asia. In an email, he questioned Boyko’s use of modern-day genetic material as a guide to the distant past.

Another expert, Greger Larson of Oxford University, called the paper “a major step forward” but said he also suspected that modern DNA isn’t the way to go.

Now that Central Asia has been added to the mix, “Everyone with a favorite region can point to at least one paper that supports their suspicions,” Larson wrote in an email.

Larson is involved in an international project to tackle the question with ancient DNA and anatomical comparisons.

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I write and read about dogs, and admire dogs in print; ergo 'LiteraryDogs'. If you have some or all of these same sentiments, let's share our reading/writing knowledge and canine literary insights. My own writings are about Tibetan mastiffs, but I'm flexible and enjoy all dogs.
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