Studies delve into origins of domestic dogs

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New studies have delved into the origins of domestic dogs and of modern European and American breeds.

Chinese researchers led a new study suggesting that domestic dogs originated from wolves in Southeast Asia, not the Middle East or Europe. The study appeared as a Nov. 23, 2011, advance online publication in the journal Heredity.

Analysis of mitochondrial DNA has suggested that wolf domestication occurred in Asia south of the Yangtze River. Previous studies involving archaeological records and analysis of single nucleotide polymorphisms in nuclear DNA suggested that wolf domestication occurred in Europe or the Middle East, but the authors of the new study in Heredity state that these data sets lack data from Asia south of the Yangtze.

The new study analyzed nearly 15,000 base pairs of Y-chromosome DNA from 151 dogs from around the world. The authors found the highest genetic diversity among dogs from Asia south of the Yangtze, leading them to conclude that the region was the principal and possibly the sole region of wolf domestication.

Researchers from the University of California-Davis led another new study suggesting that dogs from Southeast Asia influenced modern European and American breeds much more than ancient Western or Middle Eastern dogs did. The study appeared Dec. 14, 2011, in the online journal PLoS One.

The researchers analyzed Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA from nine wild canids, 480 village dogs from the Middle East and Southeast Asia, 15 Australian dingoes, 45 desert-bred Salukis, and 93 dogs from 35 additional breeds or mixtures of breeds. The analysis suggested a surprising, substantial, and recent influence of Southeast Asian dogs in the creation of Western breeds.