European Canines Replaced Ancient New World's Breeds

A 10,000-year-old dog burial at the Koster site in western Illinois.    
        Del Baston courtesy Center for American Archeology

A 10,000-year-old dog burial at the Koster site in western Illinois. Del Baston courtesy Center for American Archeology

But closer study of the ancient dog genomes shows that they nearly completely disappeared following the arrival of European settlers, leaving little or no trace in more modern American dogs.

The researchers analyzed the remains of the most ancient dogs found in North America, and determined their progenitor. These ancient dogs thrived for thousands of years, but were all but wiped out after contact with Europeans.

The findings further suggest that they do not know the exact reason behind the sudden disappearance yet but the researchers believe that the sudden near disappearance is most likely because of the combined effects of the cancer and the European colonization.

Through DNA testing of dogs, the remains of which 10 thousand years, scientists have found that all dogs living on the American continent, descended from the ancestor from Siberia to mainland domesticated wolves came during the glacial era along with the hosts.

In fact, these breeds were found to have descended from Eurasian dog ancestry, introduced to the America between the 15th and 20th centuries according to Angela Perri, the co-first author of the study from Durham University.

In an attempt to fill in the historical gaps, researchers sequenced the genetic material of 71 dog remains collected from bones found in Siberia, the United States and Mexico.

Karlsson said it is still possible that the genetic signature of ancient American dogs will be found in modern-day dogs, not to mention other surprises. "The other could be persecution of native dogs by European colonists-it could be a way of targeting Indigenous people. Our study confirms that they likely originated in Siberia, crossing the Bering Strait during initial human migrations".

"By looking at genomic data along with mitochondrial data, we were able to confirm that dogs came to the Americas with humans, and that almost all of that diversity was lost - most likely as a result of European colonization", said Kelsey Witt, who led the mitochondrial DNA genome work as a graduate student in the laboratory of University of IL anthropology professor Ripan Malhi, who also is an author of the study.

The 19th century American naturalist John James Audubon remarked, "The Indian dogs which I saw here so very closely resemble wild wolves, that I feel assured that if I was to meet with one of them in the woods, I should most assuredly kill it as such".

Less controversial is the researchers' theory about the canine transmissible venereal tumour (CTVT), a sexually transmitted form of cancer that has spread globally. Man's best friend, the domesticated dog, didn't arrive for another 6,000 years or so, crossing over just in time to avoid the land bridge's collapse, but archaeological evidence suggests that the two species lived in harmony for thousands of years-at least until 1492, the year Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

DNA analysis allowed the scientists to identify pre-contact dogs' closest relatives: a group of dogs native to Zhokhov Island, a frigid Arctic site situated about 300 miles north of the Russian mainland.

"It's quite incredible to think that possibly the only survivor of a lost dog lineage is a tumor that can spread between dogs as an infection", Maire Ni Leathlobhair of Cambridge University told CBS News.

The research was largely funded by Wellcome, the Natural Environment Research Council, and the European Research Council. And there is some genetic legacy of those ancient North American dogs.

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