The Descent of Man’s Best Friend

by Stephanie M. Halmo

descent of mans best friend

Image: Olgierd Rudak, Flickr

When and where the world’s first domesticated species of dogs originated is a hotly debated topic by geneticists. A recent study places the origin of human’s best friend in Central Asia or modern day Mongolia and Nepal. These results, published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Dr. Boyko’s team at Cornell and their collaborators, challenge the previous theories that dogs originated in Europe or Southern China.

The results point to Central Asia as the place where dogs transitioned from Eurasian wolves at least 15,000 years ago. Dr. Boyko’s group determined where dogs descended from a common ancestor by looking at the differences in genes close to one another in the genomes of over 500 dogs.

The study analyzed the genomes of 549 “village” dogs—free-ranging pups with human contact—from around the globe and compared them to 4,676 genomes of purebred dogs. Village dogs had more genetic variation than purebred dogs and village dogs of Vietnam, India and Egypt had less European influence or admixture.

Stephanie Halmo Stephanie Halmo is a former middle school science teacher turned graduate student, actively pursuing her Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Georgia. In her spare time she likes to dance, volunteer at local schools and tie-dye anything she can get her hands on. You can connect with Stephanie on Twitter and Instagram @shalmo or by email:shalmo27@uga.edu. More from Stephanie.