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Domesticated Dogs Originated In Central Asia, New Study Shows

Oct 21, 2015 06:03 PM EDT

Dogs are man's best and oldest friend. They were the first domesticated 15,000 years ago and these days between 70 and 80 million pet owners in the U.S. own a dog. But where did domestication originate? A detailed genetic analysis, the most comprehensive ever underaken, suggests that Central Asia was home to the world's first dog, a new study revealed.

Scientists have long understood that dogs are closely related to gray wolves, although where domesticated canines originated was previously unclear. But after researchers from Cornell University examined three types of DNA gathered from 161 breeds of 4,500 dogs, along with 549 wild, or "village," dogs from 38 countries they determined that domesticated dogs originated near Mongolia or Nepal.

"The fact that we looked at so many village dogs from so many different regions, meant we were able to narrow in on the patterns of diversity in these indigenous dogs," Dr. Adam Boyko, from Cornell University, told BBC News. "We looked exclusively to see if there was evidence of multiple domestication events. And like every other group that's looked for that, we found no evidence of it." 

While their genetic analysis may not put an end to this long-debated topic, researchers were able to determine that village dogs had greater genetic diversity than purebred dogs, which means they are able to explain more about evolutionary history than purebred dogs, the researchers noted. 

The findings, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shed light on the evolution of domesticated dogs and pave the way for future studies.  

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