Some nations in the Middle East (we're looking at you, Iran) might not be our best friends right now, but we' can't say we don't have close pals that hail from the cradle of civilization: The contemporary, domesticated dog likely originated in the Middle East. according to a UCLA research paper published in the journal Nature this week.
"Dogs seem to share more genetic similarity with Middle Eastern gray wolves than with any other wolf population worldwide," states Robert Wayne, UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and senior author of the paper. " ... We have found that a dominant proportion of modern dogs' ancestry derives from Middle Eastern wolves, and this finding is consistent with the hypothesis that dogs originated in the Middle East."
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Way beyond falafel, coffee and meat on a spit, modern humanity has a lot to thank the region for. "This is the same area where domestic cats and many of our livestock originated and where agriculture first developed," Wayne stated.
The research by UCLA biologists debunks previous theories that contemporary dogs had roots in East Asia. Researchers looked at the genetic data of 900 dogs from 85 breeds and compared it to 200 ancestral gray wolves from North America, Europe, the Middle East and East Asia. Samples from Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran helped the academics come to the Middle East connection, but they were unable to pinpoint a definitive country of origin.
The post-wolf dogs found through archeology date back as many as 13,000 years ago, Wayne says.
"We know that dogs from the Middle East were closely associated with humans because they were found in ancient human burial sites," Wayne states. "In one case, a puppy is curled up in the arms of a buried human."