Plants and Animals

From Wolf to Chihuahua New Research Reveals Where the Dingo Sits On the Evolutionary Timeline of Dogs

From Wolf to Chihuahua New Research Reveals Where the Dingo Sits On the Evolutionary Timeline of Dogs

Many people are aware that contemporary canines are descendants of the grey wolf. But did you realize that the majority of the more than 340 current dog breeds we have today are barely 200 years old? Dogs were initially domesticated between 29,000 and 14,000 years ago during the Neolithic period, and have been inextricably tied to humans ever since. Dingoes, Australia’s sole native dog, are regarded to be a one-of-a-kind occurrence in canine evolution, having arrived in the country 5,000–8,000 years ago.

However, the exact position of dingoes in the canine family tree has never been determined. We employed cutting-edge DNA sequencing methods to discover that dingoes are fundamentally different from domestic canines and where they diverged from grey wolves on their evolutionary path. Dingoes are an early offshoot of contemporary dogs, located between the grey wolf and today’s domesticated canines, and according to study published today in Science Advances by 25 researchers from four nations. This research might have ramifications for the health of all current dog breeds.

From Wolf to Chihuahua New Research Reveals Where the Dingo Sits On the Evolutionary Timeline of Dogs

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Dogs, for example, require a specific gene (amylase 2B) to digest starch, according to prior scientific investigations. Many dog breeds have multiple copies of this gene (sometimes more than ten copies). The wolf and dingo, on the other hand, only have one copy of this gene. The duplication in modern dogs is most likely due to a shift in nutrition for the first domesticated dogs, who were progressively given starchy foods like rice (cultivated through early widespread agriculture). Surprisingly, the same gene duplication has happened independently in other newly domesticated livestock species, demonstrating how humans may influence domesticated animals’ genomes.

MODERN DOGS IN AN EARLY OFFSHOOT, Dingoes are remarkable in that they have spent thousands of years geographically apart from wolves and tame dogs. We utilized genetics in our research to figure out where the dingo fits into canine evolution and what function it plays in the Australian ecology. We only had access to a single dog genome as a point of reference in 2017. (A boxer breed). Due to the limits of the technology at the time, it had numerous gaps. The dingo, on the other hand, won Pacific Biosciences’ “World’s Most Interesting Genome” competition the same year. This prompted us to consider creating a high-quality dingo genome.

However, we required many high-quality dog genomes to grasp the dingo’s role in dog history. As a representative breed, we created the genome of a German shepherd, followed by the genome of a basenji (the earliest dog breed used for hunting in the Congo). Finally, the genome of Sandy, a pure desert dingo puppy found abandoned in the outback, was sequenced (pictured at the top of this article). Due to the advancement of long-read sequencing technology, the capacity to build high-quality genomes has only been achievable in the last few years. This method was also critical in the recent announcement of the completion of the whole human genome.

We measured the number of genetic differences between these breeds and the dingo using our new dog genomes, as well as existing genomes of the Greenland wolf and other representative species such as the Great Dane, boxer, and Labrador, to definitively show where the dingo fits in the evolutionary timeline. Between the wolf and today’s domesticated dogs, we discovered that dingoes are genuinely an early offshoot of all current dog varieties.