In the pages of human history, the paw prints of man’s best friend are tracked all over.
As companions, guardians, hunters and herders, dogs come in all shapes and sizes, evidenced by the enormous variety of breeds. New research from the U.S. National Institutes of Health draws a family tree of over one hundred breeds.
The results, published in the journal Cell Reports, have drawn a lineage of 161 dog breeds, forming the largest ancestral tree of Canis familiaris yet.
First, researchers aimed to understand how the numerous and diverse dog breeds relate to each other. By untangling their complex genome, it would shed light on how those breeds came to be.
Elaine Ostrander, chief investigator of the cancer genetics and comparative genomics branch in the National Human Genome Research Institute and co-author of the paper, said in an interview with CBC News they acquired the DNA samples by going “anywhere the dog people are.”
The team of researchers attended agility, herding, and pedigree competitions, as well as Frisbee shows and exclusive breeding clubs to try and fetch dog owners into a study that examined 1,346 dogs around the world.
“It was a general collaboration with the public,” said Ostrander. “If we wanted 10 samples of sheepdogs, we got 100. People were really happy to be involved.”
With the blood samples acquired, the research team could build a timeline of when and how those 161 dog breeds emerged.
“I’ve always wondered where German shepherds originated,” said Ostrander. “This research gives us information about how they were formed.”
The paper uses the golden retriever as an example, using genetic information to show the breed split from the flat-coated retriever in 1895….