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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dogs' Genetic Roots:The DNA Is A Bit Murky...

Photo of a Saluki, one of six "basal" breeds, by Alen Popov, courtesy of  The New York Times

Ever wondered about the long-ago, genetic origins of your dog? Neither did we!  But we still think this article from a recent New York Times Science Section is fascinating. Although the general consensus among among scientists and anthropologists is that dogs are descended from wolves, it turns out that there is consensus on little else. "It seems dogs appeared sometime between 15,000 and 100,000 years ago, in Asia of Africa or multiple times in multiple places." That's quite a time span in years and geography, but that hasn't stopped scientists from trying to nail things down a bit more. 

As part of a research paper published just a few weeks ago in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists declared that "...all the so-called modern breeds had been so mixed that their deep genetic history was obscured." But they also found what they called  "basal breeds", or breeds whose DNA was less mixed: the basenji, shar-pei, Saluki, Akita, Finnish spitz and Eurasier...and this caused another conundrum: these breeds with the purest DNA were not found in the oldest fossils, like logically expected. 

Now, we don't pretend to know what all this means, but we still think it's darn interesting for dog lovers-and there's a glimmer of good news at the end of this long and murky tunnel: since humans have buried their dogs for millennia, "there are fossils of truly ancient dogs, in the neighborhood of 15,000 years old, from which DNA can be extracted." And this DNA should help shed some light on when dogs were first domesticated, and thus help us better understand our shared history.

Would you like to understand more about humans and dogs shared history? Let us know what you think!

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