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The Recall of the Wild

Studies find dogs have their day, and it goes way, way back

THURSDAY, Nov. 21, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- They may not be able to tell you where, oh where, has your little dog gone, but two new Swedish reports can give you an idea of where he is from.

The findings, published in tomorrow's issue of Science, say domesticated dogs first appeared in East Asia, loped their way across Asia and Europe and then followed humans into the New World about 12,000 to 14,000 years ago.

One research team studied dog origins in the Old World while the other team sniffed around for clues about dogs in the New World.

Eurasian wolves are the most likely forebears of domesticated dogs and that taming of the wolves may have happened about 15,000 years ago. While they may have a common genetic origin, breeding has created the wide size and shape variation we see in modern dogs.

The researchers say they don't know how or why humans domesticated dogs. However, dogs multiplied and diversified rapidly and that indicates they offered an important service to humans. For example, they may have helped humans hunt animals.

To determine where dog domestication started, the Swedish researchers compared DNA sequences of Old and New World dogs. That included some Latin American and Alaskan dogs that were in the Americas before the arrival of Europeans.

The similarities in all the dogs' DNA sequences indicated that they all shared a common ancestor. The researchers also found that dog genetic diversity was highest in East Asia. They say that suggests East Asia is where dogs have been domesticated for the longest period of time.

Most previous research has focused on the Middle East as the area where dogs were first domesticated, based on some archeological evidence and the fact that a number of other animals were first domesticated in the Middle East.

More information

We don't want to hound you, but you should take a look at this article about the wolf within your dog.

SOURCE: American Association for the Advancement of Science, news release, Nov. 21, 2002
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