While a postdoc at Cornell University a few years ago, Adam Boyko became curious about the little-studied village vagrants. Though dogs were first domesticated 20,000 to 15,000 years ago, most breeds go back only a few hundred years.
Perhaps village dog DNA might shed light on the long, early history of domestication, when canines were hanging around humans yet not under our domain. But how to get samples?As it happened, around the same time Boyko’s brother Ryan had married, and he and wife Corin were looking for a cheap honeymoon off the beaten track. The three Boykos decided to merge their two quests.
Adam — now at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine — obtained a grant, then enlisted Ryan and Corin to spend their honeymoon traveling around Egypt, Uganda, and Namibia, befriending villagers and local vets.
They collected DNA from more than 300 village dogs…The Boykos continue to expand their sample collection, with another expedition planned for Africa. And they’ve also begun using the same techniques to solve a related mystery: the strange disappearance of native dogs in South America. We know from the historical record that Native Americans had dogs. But previous population surveys in the Americas turned up only dogs with European heritage.
“How do you ship so many dogs across the world that they completely replace the native dogs?” Boyko wonders, suspecting that in fact there may still be village dogs with native DNA in the remotest areas of the continent. So in August the three Boykos packed their bags and headed into the jungles of Peru, searching for the lost American dog.Excerpt Read more at ngm.nationalgeographic.com …
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