dog japan best friend human origin

Dog Genetics and Japanese Origins

Dog has always been “man’s best friend”

I’d say all of us have an interest to know where our ancestors hailed from and the Japanese are anything but an exception in this matter. Blood tests, ear-wax analyses, morphometrics, linguistic comparisons – prior to the advent of molecular genetics all these methods have been used to prove or disprove relationships between people and to determine which migratory route or routes prehistoric human beings might have taken.

Nowadays we have genetic fingerprinting and analyses of a person’s relatives, dead and alive, have become routine. Dr Tanabe of Gifu University, however, has tried to use dogs to trace Japanese origins; dog genetics to be precise. Since ancient times, dogs have migrated with humans; they have been humanity’s companions for at least 14,000 years. Dogs appear to have evolved solely from wolves (and not the coyote, foxes or the like) and the two species can still interbreed, although according to the German Professor Herre the mixed offspring, he told me once when he showed me his “puwus” at Kiel Univertsity (poodle-wolf crossbreeds), incorporated the worst traits of both species.

Assuming dogs accompanied early Japanese settlers at a time the latter colonized the Japanese islands, then through a thorough comparison of the genetic relationships between Japanese dog breeds and their European and Asian “cousins”, was Dr Tanabe’s idea, it should be possible to determine from which part of the world the first Japanese settlers had acquired their dogs. Observations on dog skull morphologies supplemented Dr Tanabe’s genetic studies of 7 non-enzymatic and 9 enzymatic dog blood proteins. His results showed that the Ryukyu, Iriomote Island, and Hokkaido dogs were closely related to one another and that there were two gene flows in the dogs of Japan.

The first was 10-12,000 years ago from Southeast Asia, the second approximately 2,000 years ago from Korea. Present day breeds or populations in Honshu (Japan’s main island) are descendents of the hybrids between the old type Japanese dog and the more recent Korean immigrant. No doubt there remain many open questions and I wonder which kind of dog (if any) the Ainu or the inhabitants of Hachijojima 5,000 years ago possessed. Anyway, Dr Tanabe reports that his results of dog genetics do support the hypothesis of a “dual structure model” for the human population history of Japan and add weight to earlier conclusions based on blood and genetic tests. Certainly an interesting approach to unravel human migration and on what basis did he discover all this? All, because the dog has been “man’s best friend” since ancient times.

hair naked ape human biology

Our “best friends” are not the only furry ones! Click here if you want to read “Human hairiness”

© Dr V.B. Meyer-Rochow and, 2016.
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