Original North American Dogs Descended From Siberian Populations

Timeline of the arrival of native North American dogs across the Americas

Timeline of the arrival of native North American dogs across the Americas

Because CTVTs (and all cancers) are essentially the mutated form of an animal's DNA, it's possible to trace back its genetic structure to the dog who first developed it. Researchers found that this "CTVT founder" dog was closely related to pre-contact dogs, suggesting the disease had originated some 8000 years ago. "So in a weird way, the ancient dogs of America live on through these cancerous cells".

All of these tumours are clones - genetically highly similar to one another but genetically distinct from their hound hosts.

The only surviving legacy appears to be a cancer that arose from the cells of a dog that lived more than 8,000 years ago and has since spread to other canines throughout the world, an worldwide team reported Thursday in the journal Science. If that was the case, these first dogs might have left a rather disturbing legacy.

Preserved in every single CTVT tumour is ancient DNA from the long-dead founder.

In an ironic twist, the researchers also found that something of the original dogs of the Americas still exists - an infectious cancer with the genome of the dog in which it first appeared.

Now, the only remaining lineage of ancient dogs native to North America is a transmissible cancer, according to a new archeological study. What we found was a huge surprise.

A reconstruction of what the founder dog may have looked like. "And just as indigenous people in the Americas were displaced by European colonists, the same is true of their dogs", Oxford Professor Greger Larson, senior author of the studay, said in the statement.

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 earliest traces of domesticated dogs in North America are from about 5,000 years after humans first arrived about 15,000 years ago. 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.

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By far, the introduction of European dogs had the biggest impact. Evidence that these dogs were used in sledding, along with suggestions that they were used for hunting and hauling, means that they could have facilitated the early settlement of the Americas.

These dogs all lived before Europeans came into contact with the indigenous people of the Americas.

The new findings reinforce the idea that early human and dog inhabitants of the Americas faced numerous same challenges after European contact, Malhi said.

The results seem to undercut the popular narrative that breeds such as chihuahuas are descended from ancient American dogs, since their mitochondrial DNA had less than two per cent in common with the ancient dogs in this study.

Because of that, Savolainen doesn't discount the possibility that while these pre-contact dogs might not have direct living descendants, earlier migrations could have brought over dogs whose genetic legacy has survived into the modern day.

A xoloitzcuintli, or Mexican hairless has been called by some the ancient Aztec dog of the gods.

Major factors leading to the demise of pre-contact dogs probably include susceptibility to European-borne diseases, systematic persecution by European colonists and a cultural preference for European dogs. Due to their isolation, the immune systems of pre-contact dogs may have been unprepared for the arrival of new pathogens. Perhaps even hunted together. Bizarrely, their nearly total disappearance means that the closest living relative of these bygone dogs is now CTVT, an opportunistic, sexually-transmitted dog cancer that has hitchhiked around the world at least two times over. "There's a good chance we're going to find out there's more complexity out there".

Dogs have journeyed with us through changing times and cultures and to a large extent their histories reflect our own.

But ancient dog genes do live on in a surprising place: tumors.

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