Did you ever wonder about the origin of domesticated dogs in North America? Were wolves or other wild dogs tamed?  Perhaps colonizers introduce them?  Was there another path of introduction?

A recent study by researchers at the University at Buffalo (part of the State University of New York) and others from the University of South Dakota reveals interesting facts about the dogs’ trek onto the continent. Researchers began with an approximately 10,000-year-old bone fragment found in Southeastern Alaska. This bone proved to be the oldest known sample from a domesticated dog in the Americas.

The bone’s genome was compared to that of historical Arctic dogs, modern dog breeds, and American precontact (before European arrival) dogs.  The DNA suggests that this dog is a close relative of those American precontact dogs. 

A separate earlier genetic study by a large multi-national group of researchers published in Science reported that, among other findings, these precontact dogs were not domesticated North American wolves. They instead diverged from an approximately 9000-year-old dog population that was found in Eastern Siberia.

The split seems to be roughly timed with humans migrating along the coastal route into North America as the last Ice Age was retreating.  While this does not tell the whole story about how dogs arrived here, it does suggest at least one route.  Dogs also arrived later with other explorers and colonizers.  It’s probably not surprising then that the precontact dogs were eventually squeezed out by the european dog breeds. 

Sources:

University at Buffalo story — http://www.buffalo.edu/home/story-repository.host.html/content/shared/university/news/ub-reporter-articles/stories/2021/02/ancient-dogs.detail.html

Scientific paper at Proceedings from the Royal Society B — https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2020.3103

Scientific paper for the earlier study from Science — doi:10.1126/science.aao4776

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