Menu

DEL BASTON, CENTER FOR AMERICAN ARCHEOLOGY

Original North American Dogs Descended From Siberian Populations

European settlers likely wiped out these ancient dogs, but the animals seem to have left a lasting legacy in a transmissible canine cancer.

Jul 5, 2018
Catherine Offord

The first domesticated dogs to be kept in the Americas were not descendants of North American wolves, as sometimes suggested, but were brought across from Siberia by humans more than 10,000 years ago, according to a study published today (July 5) in Science. By analyzing ancient and modern dog genomes, researchers also found that, despite surviving alongside humans for millennia, those animals were all but wiped out with the arrival of European settlers from the 15th century, who brought other dogs that would become the ancestors of modern North American breeds. 

“It is fascinating that a population of dogs that inhabited many parts of the Americas for thousands of years, and that was an integral part of so many Native American cultures, could have disappeared so rapidly,” study coauthor Laurent Frantz of Queen Mary University and the University of Oxford says in a statement. “Their near-total disappearance is likely due to the combined effects of disease, cultural persecution and biological changes starting with the arrival of Europeans.”

Using DNA data from 71 dog remains from archeological sites in North America and Siberia, the researchers found that these ancient, pre-Columbian arrival dogs had very different genetic signatures to any modern dog genomes. “We now know that the modern American dogs beloved worldwide, such as Labradors and Chihuahuas, are largely descended from Eurasian breeds,” archeologist and coauthor Andrea Perri of Durham University says in the statement.

The team did find one hint of the ancient dogs’ genomes in modern breeds, however. When the researchers analyzed the genome sequence of a contagious genital cancer known as canine transmissible venereal tumors (CTVT), they found that the disease most likely came from the cells of a single animal—one with an ancient dog genome. 

“We in other groups have been looking for these signatures of ancient North American dogs in modern breeds,” Heidi Parker, a staff scientist at the Dog Genome Project at the National Human Genome Research Institute who was not involved in the work, tells National Geographic. “The thought that there’s actually a preserved signature of one of those early North American dogs that are extinct today in this tumor, which is just perpetuating it then forever, is very cool.”

Correction (July 6): The first paragraph mistakenly referred to European settlers’ dogs as descendants, rather than ancestors, of modern North American breeds. The Scientist regrets the error.

November 2018

Intelligent Science

Wrapping our heads around human smarts

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

Slice® Safety Cutters for Lab Work

Slice® Safety Cutters for Lab Work

Slice cutting tools—which feature our patent-pending safety blades—meet many lab-specific requirements. Our scalpels and craft knives are well suited for delicate work, and our utility knives are good for general use.

The Lab of the Future: Alinity Poised to Reinvent Clinical Diagnostic Testing and Help Improve Healthcare

The Lab of the Future: Alinity Poised to Reinvent Clinical Diagnostic Testing and Help Improve Healthcare

Every minute counts when waiting for accurate diagnostic test results to guide critical care decisions, making today's clinical lab more important than ever. In fact, nearly 70 percent of critical care decisions are driven by a diagnostic test.

LGC announces new, integrated, global portfolio brand, Biosearch Technologies, representing genomic tools for mission critical customer applications

LGC announces new, integrated, global portfolio brand, Biosearch Technologies, representing genomic tools for mission critical customer applications

LGC’s Genomics division announced it is transforming its branding under LGC, Biosearch Technologies, a unified portfolio brand integrating optimised genomic analysis technologies and tools to accelerate scientific outcomes.