Washington, March 18 (ANI): A new genetic analysis by an international team of scientists has determined that dogs likely originated in the Middle East, not Asia or Europe.
"Dogs seem to share more genetic similarity with Middle Eastern gray wolves than with any other wolf population worldwide," said Robert Wayne, UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.
"Genome-wide analysis now directly suggests a Middle East origin for modern dogs. We have found that a dominant proportion of modern dogs' ancestry derives from Middle Eastern wolves, and this finding is consistent with the hypothesis that dogs originated in the Middle East," he added.
"This is the same area where domestic cats and many of our livestock originated and where agriculture first developed," Wayne noted.
Previous genetic research suggested an East Asian origin for dogs, "which was unexpected because there was never a hint in the archaeological record that dogs evolved there," Wayne said.
"We were able to study a broader sampling of wolves globally than has ever been done before, including Middle Eastern wolves," said the research paper's lead author, Bridgett vonHoldt, a UCLA graduate student of ecology and evolutionary biology in Wayne's laboratory who studies the genetics of dog domestication.
"In our analysis of the entire genome, we found that dogs share more unique markers with Middle Eastern wolves than with East Asian wolves. We used a genome-wide approach, which avoids the bias of single genome region," he added.
The biologists report genetic data from more than 900 dogs from 85 breeds and more than 200 wild gray wolves (the ancestor of domestic dogs) worldwide, including populations from North America, Europe, the Middle East and East Asia.
They used molecular genetic techniques to analyze more than 48,000 genetic markers.
No previous study has ever analyzed anywhere near that many markers.
The biologists have samples from Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran, but they have not pinpointed a specific location in the Middle East where dogs originated.
According to Wayne, "We found strong kinship to Middle Eastern gray wolves and, to some extent, European gray wolves - but much less so to any wolves from East Asia. Our findings strongly contradict the conclusions based on earlier mitochondrial DNA sequence data." (ANI)