The name “Astrophysics Colloquium” was a bit of a misnomer on Tuesday, March 5. Instead of the usual physicist coming to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott campus, a biologist arrived to tell students about her new research on a topic close to all of our hearts: dogs.
Dr. Sarah Brown, a researcher in veterinary genetics and anthropology, has spent much of the past couple of years gathering evidence for a claim that she and her team has made. The previously accepted hypothesis regarding the origins of the modern dog said that the dog was first created about 15,000 years ago in the Middle East and then spread from there to various parts of Central Eurasia, South East Asia, and Europe. However, Dr. Brown’s claim challenges this, saying that the dog originated in Central Eurasia, moved to South East Asia where it diversified, before splitting up and moving across the Eurasian continents.
Dr. Brown spent the past few years doing research to get evidence to support her claim. Using mitochondrial DNA to track the DNA of the dog species maternally from saliva samples of dogs from all over the world, her team discovered that South East Asia was home to the most diversified dog population about 9,000 years ago. These saliva samples determined that there were two major groups of dog breeds: Middle Eastern breeds and Asian breeds. To determine where the modern dog came from, her team had to show a genetic link from modern dogs to one of these groups.
After more research, her team noticed that European and American dog breeds were grouping with Asian dogs. How could that be? After further analysis, she determined that the only way for this to be possible was that the Asian breeds had once branched off from the Eurasian/Middle Eastern breeds. Her theory then developed that the dog originated in Central Eurasia before moving to Asia and diversifying and moving on from there.
“I really enjoyed Dr. Brown’s topic,” freshman Melea Rhodes said. “I feel like I learned a lot about how dogs have come to be. I wish I could hear more.”