Humans domesticated dogs before any other animal. But today’s Western pets contain only a small fraction of dogs’ original genetic diversity.
Adam Boyko, a geneticist and assistant professor of biomedical sciences at the Vet College, is raising money to identify ancient genetic markers found in free-ranging “village” dogs – an intermediate between modern purebred dogs and wild canid species – in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo this summer.
“Due to their isolation these dogs offer our best hope of obtaining the pure genetic remnants of the first African dogs,” writes doctoral student (and Adam’s brother) Ryan Boyko. “Samples from these dogs, combined with the genes of dogs from isolated places across Asia, Europe and the Americas, will allow us to see which genes these diverse populations share that differ from wolves, pinpointing the genes related to domestication.”
Studying village dogs can improve dog and human health, the researchers say.