Dog genomes reveal their history

Scientists have used genetic analysis to wind the evolutionary clock back on the history of dogs
06 February 2014

Interview with 

Nell Barrie, writer


A terrier pet dog


Kat -    Now regular listeners will know I love my dog genetic stories.  And this is a big one.  This is a big study published in PLOS Genetics from researchers in the U.S, Europe, and China.  And what they've been doing is analysing, basically, the evolutionary history of dogs and wolves.  So they've been doing genome analysis on three grey wolves - one from China, Croatia and Israel and a whole bunch of domesticated dog breeds.  So there's a Basenji, which originated in Central Africa and a Dingo from Australia.  And the results are really intriguing.  What's your take on this?

Nell -   Well, I just want to caveat this by saying I'm a cat person, but, you know, dog studies are interesting.  What they found was that the dog breeds that they sequenced were most closely related to each other.  So, the dogs were more closely related to each other than they were to any of the wolves, which is not too surprising, given that we know that wolves are quite different and they diverged a long time ago.  But what really came out of this, it's almost winding back the clock using these genetic changes to sort of go back in time. 

And it's actually, surprisingly or perhaps not a lot more complicated than we thought because it appears that there may have been different wolf lineages diverging away and starting to evolve into dogs in different places at different time.  So, there appears to have been a lot more merging and diverging going on than we thought.  It's not a simple as saying that we had a population of wolves, dogs start to evolve and then two lineages just split because there may have been some sort of overlap at different points in time.


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