How an entire line of dogs in the Americas disappeared

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

"And just as indigenous people in the Americas were displaced by European colonists, the same is true of their dogs", Oxford Professor Greger Larson, senior author of the studay, said in the statement. North American dogs disappeared shortly after the arrival of the first Europeans. While unsampled pockets of American dogs might still remain, what we've found so far suggests that they have been extensively replaced by European breeds.

Dogs' ancestors in the Americas likely came from Siberia, according to a new study.

"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", Kelsey Witt, who led the mitochondrial DNA genome research as a graduate student at the University of IL, said in a news release. Researchers compared the 71 ancient genomes with DNA from more than 5,000 modern dogs, including breeds like chihuahuas and Carolina dogs, which are commonly thought to be descended from indigenous populations. European colonists - and the canines they brought with them - all but wiped the early dogs' genetic signature from Earth, according to the largest-ever study of ancient and modern dog DNA in North America and Siberia.

"This paper makes really clear that the ancient American dog appears to have nearly entirely vanished, though nobody seems to have any good explanations for why", said Elinor Karlsson, a University of MA professor who studies dog genetics and was not involved in the research, which was published Thursday in Science.

When they compared it to the genetic makeup of modern pooches, they confirmed what other scientists have long suggested: The first dogs of North America, similar to Arctic dogs like Siberian huskies or Alaskan malamutes, were brought to the continent when people crossed the land bridge that formed between Russian Federation and Canada.

The findings are based on research by an global team of 50 scientists, who looked at the DNA of the remains of 71 ancient dogs and compared these to modern American animals. They came with humans who migrated from Asia, probably several thousand years after the first people arrived more than 15,000 years ago. "The genome that it has is the genome of the very, very first" dog to get the disease. Instead, the analysis confirmed, the dogs were most closely related to an ancient Eastern Siberian stock.

"We still have some Neanderthal in us", Perri said. What we uncovered were the last traces of ancient American dogs.

Alaskan malamutes, like this one at the 2016 Westminster Dog Show, are among the oldest dog breeds in North America.

Canine transmissible venereal tumours (CTVT) are a rare form of cancer that can be transmitted between hosts, not unlike the deadly devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) that threatens populations of Tasmanian devils.

"Where people go, so go their dogs, " said Ostrander, who was not part of the study. "Although this cancer's DNA has mutated over the years, it is still essentially the DNA of that original founder dog from many thousands of years ago".

Preserved in every single CTVT tumour is ancient DNA from the long-dead founder.

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. "There's a good chance we're going to find out there's more complexity out there". 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. This dog wasn't a giant, wolf-like creature as most would expect all ancient dogs to be, Perrisaid. "And the fact that we don't know anything about it is kind of a big hole". If that happens, she added, researchers can "work our way further back in time".

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