Arrival of European dogs nearly wiped out ancient American dogs

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

A new study shows that Siberian dogs migrated to America a long time ago, but they somehow disappeared when Europeans set foot here.

As well as studying the mitochondrial DNA, researchers also sequenced the nuclear genome of seven of the ancient dogs, as reported by Gizmodo, leading them to conclude that ancient dogs which lived in huge populations all over the Americas did not survive the onslaught of the European colonizers from the 15th century onward.

The researchers further discovered that when the dogs mated thousands of years ago, they spread a cancerous condition which still continued to be present in the dog descendants today and is probably the last trace of the ancient dogs which came to the Americas.

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.

A large new study of ancient and modern dog DNA confirmed that dogs in the Americans did not descend from North American wolves.

The study also "pretty well put the kibosh" on any notion that the pre-contact dogs descended from North American wolves, said Perri, a lead author of the study.

Comparison of ancient and modern American dog genomes, however, demonstrated that these pre-contact American dogs rapidly disappeared following the arrival of Europeans and left little to no trace in modern American dogs.

Dogs have been man's best friend for more than 10,000 years, but a new study shows it has been a doggone tough road to get here: their ancestors in the Americas likely came from Siberia, and these early dog populations nearly totally disappeared, but not before leaving a cancerous tumor that is still found in their canine descendants today.

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The Siberian huskies, malamutes and general sledding dogs are considered to be the closest to the original North American breeds.

The arrival of the first Europeans in the Americas in the 15th century didn't just affect the lives of native people already living here. "Our study confirms that they likely originated in Siberia, crossing the Bering Strait during initial human migrations".

Scientists seem to have gained some insight into the age old mystery of how ancient American dogs vanished mysteriously from the face of the earth, and it is not at all like how you would expect. "And European colonists largely replaced indigenous people in the Americas, and amazingly, the same is true of their dogs", said Greger Larson, senior author of the study and the director of the Palaeo-BARN at Oxford.

The team's findings suggest that modern American dogs are descended exclusively from Eurasian breeds introduced by European settlers.

A dog buried almost 10,000 years ago in western IL, at what is known as the Koster site.

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 tumour that can spread between dogs as an infection", added Maire Ní Leathlobhair, co-first author, from the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge. Note: material may have been edited for length and content.

Despite their annihilation, the displaced exacted what Perri said she and her colleagues darkly joke is "the revenge of these native American dogs".

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