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Ancient American dogs were almost eradicated after Europeans arrived
09 July 2018, 03:24 | Silvia Roy
Timeline of the arrival of native North American dogs across the Americas
Dogs have been man's best friend for more than 10,000 years, but a new study shows it has been a doggone tough road to get here: their ancestors in the Americas likely came from Siberia, and these early dog populations nearly totally disappeared, but not before leaving a cancerous tumor that is still found in their canine descendants today.
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 were not domesticated from North American wolves but instead padded their way into the Americas from Asia alongside humans at least 10,000 years ago.
In a tragic twist of canine fate, researchers report that dogs that lived in the Americas for thousands of years were wiped out after Europeans arrived on the continent. Scientists suggest that the colonizers brought with them diseases that proved deadly to animals.
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.
"Their near-total disappearance is likely due to the combined effects of disease, cultural persecution and biological changes starting with the arrival of Europeans", Frantz said in a statement issued by Queen Mary, Oxford, and other British universities.
"The cancer genome we found was a real surprise", Linderholm said. Did they intermix with dogs brought by European settlers?
The genomic analysis showed a transmittable cancer still found among some modern dogs is the only genetic heritage left behind by the disappeared North American dog lineages. Remarkably, the research revealed that the dog that first spawned CTVT was closely related to American pre-contact dogs. Colonists who killed entire villages of people would also kill their dogs. "This study reinforces that idea and takes it back to almost the beginning of dogdom".
A Mexican hairless dog, or xoloitzcuintli. The ethnographic records and hard evidence suggests they were the constant companion of the Indigenous populations of North America, and yet, very little trace of them exists today in the genomes of modern dogs.
The oldest known domestic dog remains in the Americas are approximately 9,900-year-old skeletons in IL.
"People in Europe and the Americas were genetically distinct, and so were their dogs", said Greger Larson, director of the Palaeo-BARN at Oxford and senior author of the study.
"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. Less than 4 percent of the genome of modern American dogs can be traced back to those that lived before the Europeans came, the study found.
Thousands of dogs around the world - from Aboriginal camp dogs in Australia to street dogs in Buenos Aires - are affected by an extraordinary type of infectious cancer that causes genital tumours and can jump between individuals, known as Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumour or CTVT.
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