Scientists have previously reported archaeological evidence that the New World Dog existed, but this study marks the first living evidence of them in modern breeds. "What we noticed is that there are groups of American dogs that separated somewhat from the European breeds," says study co-author Heidi Parker of the NIH. "We've been looking for some kind of signature of the New World Dog, and these dogs have New World Dogs hidden in their genome." It's unclear precisely which genes in modern hairless dogs are from Europe and which are from their New World ancestors, but the researchers hope to explore that in future studies. Other results were more expected. For instance, many breeds of "gun dogs," such as Golden Retrievers and Irish Setters, can trace their origins to Victorian England, when new technologies, such as guns, opened up new roles on hunting expeditions. Those dogs clustered closely together on the phylogenetic tree, as did the spaniel breeds. Breeds from the Middle East, such as the Saluki, and from Asia, such as Chow Chows and Akitas, seem to have diverged well before the "Victorian Explosion" in Europe and the United States. Herding breeds, though largely European in origin, proved to be surprisingly diverse. "When we were looking at herding breeds, we saw much more diversity, where there was a particular group of herding breeds that seemed to come out of the United Kingdom, a particular group that electric dog collar came out of northern Europe, and a different group that came out of southern Europe," says Parker, "which shows herding is not a recent thing. People were using dogs as workers thousands of years ago, not just hundreds of years ago." Different herding dogs use very different strategies to bring their flocks to heel, so in some ways, the phylogenetic data confirmed what many dog experts had previously suspected, the researchers noted.
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