First Dogs In Americas Arrived From Siberia, Disappeared After European Contact

Study: Ancient North American dogs were nearly wiped out after arrival of European breeds

However, after analyzing the DNA of the dogs that lived with the Indians 10 thousand years ago, experts came to the conclusion that their genetic structure mostly coincides with the individuals who lived in ancient Siberia.

Dozens of researchers collaborated for the expansive study.

In an ironic twist, the researchers also found that something of the original dogs of the Americas still exists - an infectious cancer with the genome of the dog in which it first appeared. "And just as indigenous people in the Americas were displaced by European colonists, the same is true of their dogs". 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. Although there is intriguing evidence that during this time these dogs interbred with wild canids endemic in North America, like coyotes and grey wolves.

The dogs did not descend from North American wolves but rather from Siberia. A third introduction occurred in the 19th century, when Siberian huskies were imported as sled dogs during the Alaskan gold rush. 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. "We suspect that a lot of the reasons [ancient] dogs were wiped out, were similar reasons that Native American populations were destroyed", Perri said.

That disease, based on genetic analysis, originated from a close cousin of the Americas' earliest dogs and remains the only trace of those ancestors. They likely came over in a wave of migration only about 1,000 years ago-roughly 500 years before the Europeans arrived-meaning that they are a little more closely related.

Intriguingly, the study revealed a close link between the genomes of the pre-contact dogs, as the researchers refer to them, and those derived from canine transmissible venereal tumours (CTVT).

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Researchers compared the genomes of ancient and modern American dogs.

"The picture is not as clear as they want it to be", Peter Savolainen, an associate professor in Evolutionary Genetics at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, told Gizmodo.

The team did find one hint of the ancient dogs' genomes in modern breeds, however.

Dog DNA taken from other ancient sites in the Americas not included in the study has also been found to have more similarities with the chihuahua and other South American breeds than this study did. These pre-contact dogs were widespread across the continent, varying in size and shape, and were largely the only domestic animals associated with Native American groups.

The origins of CTVT go 8,000 years ago, first from the genitals of a canine and then evolving into a parasite that can be transmitted sexually.

"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", coauthor Kelsey Witt, a graduate student who led the mitochondrial DNA testing, says in a press release from the University of IL.

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