The Disappearance of a Dog Line

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

A new study out this week in Science seems to better illuminate one of these detours. The researchers also found that a cancerous condition spread through the mating of dogs thousands of years ago is still present today and is the last remaining trace of these early dog populations that arrived in the Americas.

Dozens of researchers collaborated for the expansive study. But very few traces of the domesticated dog native to North America exists.

Scientists sequenced the genomes of ancient dogs using both mitochondrial DNA genes inherited from both parents, and mitochondrial DNA, genes passed from mothers to their offspring.

These dogs all lived before Europeans came into contact with the indigenous people of the Americas. "Although this cancer's DNA has mutated over the years, it is still essentially the DNA of that original founder dog from many thousands of years ago".

Alaskan malamutes, like this one at the 2016 Westminster Dog Show, are among the oldest dog breeds in North America.

"When we compare our ancient dog DNA to all other known dog/wolf DNA, we find that the closest relatives are the Siberian dogs". And they also have no common ties with the North American wolf, suggesting they weren't tamed from the local canine population the proto-Americans encountered. Instead, these dogs shared an ancestor with the husky. 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.

The near-absence of pre-contact dog DNA in today's pooches shows that breeds often touted as the oldest in the Americas, such as chihuahuas, are actually Eurasian in origin, Perri said.

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Linderholm said the study further proves "that we can say with certainty that the first wave of people entering the Americas brought dogs with them". 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.

The researchers analyzed the remains of the most ancient dogs found in North America, and determined their progenitor.

"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.

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.

Researchers have still not been able to fully pinpoint the exact reasons for their disappearance, and it is something which may remain shrouded in mystery pending further research, but modern American dog populations have nearly nothing in common with their descendants - except one, the canine transmissible venereal tumor (CTVT), a sexually transmitted form of cancer that has spread globally.

"This suggests something catastrophic must have happened, and it's likely associated with European colonization", said senior lead author Laurent Frantz, a lecturer at Queen Mary University and co-investigator at the University of Oxford.

"This study demonstrates that the history of humans is mirrored in our domestic animals".

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