America's first dogs vanished after Europeans arrived, study finds

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

The oldest bones extracted from a grave in western IL had already been radio carbon dated to just under 10,000 years old, thousands of years after the first signs of human inhabitation on the North American continent. Today, that singular genome has all but disappeared, eradicated by the 15th-century arrival of European settlers and their canine companions. "We suspect that a lot of the reasons [ancient] dogs were wiped out, were similar reasons that Native American populations were destroyed", Perri said.

In fact, these breeds were found to have descended from Eurasian dog ancestry, introduced to the America between the 15th and 20th centuries according to Angela Perri, the co-first author of the study from Durham University. "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.

Scientists believe that ancient American dogs were wiped out by colonizers brought diseases to the American continent.

"It is known how indigenous peoples of the Americas suffered from the genocidal practices of European colonists after contact", Malhi said.

An analysis of the DNA of these ancient dogs revealed that they had unique genetic signatures never found from any other dog breed at present, not even from any other breeds around the world. The remains, which date from roughly 10,000 to 1,000 years ago, included those of the Koster dogs, a group of four domesticated canines discovered at a burial site in western IL during the 1970s.

Ancient dogs traveled all the way from Siberia to make the Americas their new home, but the arrival of Europeans quickly marked their end. He noted that we had only sequenced the nuclear DNA of three other ancient dogs until now.

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Meanwhile, Siberian huskies and other Arctic dogs did likely descend from the ancestor of pre-contact dogs, but have plenty of DNA intermingled from European and Asian breeds.

The study included seven nuclear and 71 mitochondrial genomes from ancient North American and Siberian dogs over 9,000 years. However, a trace of these ancient canine remain in the DNA of modern dogs, and it comes in the form of a transmittable cancer.

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. Due to their isolation, the immune systems of pre-contact dogs may have been unprepared for the arrival of new pathogens. Over thousands of years, these canines traveled all across the Americas - until the Europeans arrived.

The indigenous dogs did appear to leave a genetic legacy: a rare dog cancer known as canine transmissible venereal tumor, or CTVT, that affected a single dog several thousand years ago.

Using genetic information from 71 archaeological dog remains from North America and Siberia, an worldwide team led by researchers at the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Queen Mary University of London, and Durham University showed that "native" (or "pre-contact") American dogs, which arrived alongside people over 10,000 years ago and dispersed throughout North and South America, possessed genetic signatures unlike dogs found anywhere else in the world.

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