Table of Contents
Editorial: Defining the Inuit Sled Dog
Featured Inuit Dog Owner: Sylvia Feder
All the Wrong Reasons
Last Trip of the Century to the North Pole
Bering Bridge Expedition - 10 Years Later
Ways of the North
Behavioral Notebook: Watching TV
Poem: Standing Invitation
Video Review: Dog of the Midnight Sun
Janice Howls: Observations
In My Humble Opinion: Work, et. al.
Navigating This Site
Index of articles by subject
Index of back issues by volume number
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Ordering Ken MacRury's Thesis
Our comprehensive list of resources
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Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) Study
Peter Savolainen of Stockholm, Sweden is co-author on the landmark study reported on Science June 13, 1997, "The Multiple and Ancient Origins of the Domestic Dog" (vol. 276, pp. 1687-89). His group determined the domestic dog may have separated from the wolf as long ago as 125,000 years, a conclusion that created much debate. Peter is extending this study and will run 400 more samples looking for the total variation in the domestic dog, how breeds are related, and of course, for clues to the domestic dog point of origin. A member of the Primitive and Aboriginal Dog Society (PADS) suggested the inclusion of aboriginal dogs as they are the ones who have the best chance of providing information about origins. So, Dr. Savolainen contacted PADS founder Janice Koler-Matznick to help find owners of breeds believed to be pure ancient/aboriginal. Included in the study were the New Guinea Singing Dog, Sloughi, Azawakh, Lundehund, African Sicca, Saluki, Santal Hound [pure Indian pariah], Basenji, Karelian Bear dog and the Inuit Sled Dog (ISD). In the original study, the ISD had a unique mtDNA sequence that no other dog had. And although no longer considered aboriginal, several samples from Alaskan Malamutes were included as these came from the original line of malamutes that descended from the now extinct Inuit Dogs of the Kotzebue Sound region of Alaska.
Samples were collected as follows. Ten hairs per dog, with the little bulb root attached (only place there is DNA) were plucked out and submitted. If possible, the dogs sampled were from separate maternal founders, as mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is inherited only from dams, and all dogs descended from a dam will have her mtDNA (barring mutations). Pedigrees or a chart showing how the dogs sampled are related were submitted with the hair samples.
Dr. Savolainen will advise Janice Koler-Matznick if he finds anything really unusual, and will notify her when the study is published so she in turn can notify those known to her to have sent samples. This may happen no sooner than late 1999.
Dr. Savolainen's mtDNA results will show whether or not the breeds are closely related on the maternal line, and that is all. If a male of another breed was crossed in at any point, that will not show up. They use mtDNA because it mutates more rapidly than nuclear DNA and so is more informative for a short time frame (centuries to a few thousand years) and because it is not recombined each generation: it is like "time's arrow." BUT it has, like everything, drawbacks and ultimately cannot tell us as much as sequencing the a lot of the nuclear genome (a la the AKC Canine Genome Project) which is much more expensive and takes a LOT of time and the cooperation of several labs.