Who let the dogs out, of Southeast Asia?

A new paper published in Cell Research analyses the genomes of dogs from around the world and finds that the dogs tested from Southeast Asian have higher genetic diversity, suggesting that dogs were domesticated in this region around 33,000 years ago.

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DNA Study Suggests Dogs Originated in South East Asia
Archaeology, 17 December 2015

Out of southern East Asia: the natural history of domestic dogs across the world
Cell Research, doi: 10.1038/cr.2015.147

The origin and evolution of the domestic dog remains a controversial question for the scientific community, with basic aspects such as the place and date of origin, and the number of times dogs were domesticated, open to dispute. Using whole genome sequences from a total of 58 canids (12 gray wolves, 27 primitive dogs from Asia and Africa, and a collection of 19 diverse breeds from across the world), we find that dogs from southern East Asia have significantly higher genetic diversity compared to other populations, and are the most basal group relating to gray wolves, indicating an ancient origin of domestic dogs in southern East Asia 33 000 years ago. Around 15 000 years ago, a subset of ancestral dogs started migrating to the Middle East, Africa and Europe, arriving in Europe at about 10 000 years ago. One of the out of Asia lineages also migrated back to the east, creating a series of admixed populations with the endemic Asian lineages in northern China before migrating to the New World. For the first time, our study unravels an extraordinary journey that the domestic dog has traveled on earth.

Full paper here. (Open Access)

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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