Dogs came to North America with the earliest humans: a study

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Paris (AFP)

Scientists said Wednesday they discovered the oldest remains of a domestic dog in America more than 10,000 years ago, suggesting the animals followed the first waves of human settlers.

Humans are thought to have migrated to North America from Siberia via today’s Bering Strait at the end of the last ice age – between 30,000 and 11,000 years ago.

The history of dogs has been intertwined with man since ancient times, and the study of canine DNA can provide a good time frame for human settlement.

A new study conducted by the University at Buffalo analyzed the mitochondrial DNA of a bone fragment found in southeastern Alaska.

The team initially thought the fragment belonged to a bear.

But a closer examination revealed that it was part of the femur of a dog that lived in the region about 10,150 years ago and that shared a genetic lineage with American dogs that lived before the arrival of European breeds.

“Because dogs are a substitute for the human occupation, our data helps not only determine the time but also the place where dogs and humans enter America,” said Charlotte Lindqvist, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Buffalo and the University of South Dakota.

She said the findings, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, support the theory that people came to North America from Siberia.

“Southeast Alaska could have served as a kind of ice-free stopping point, and now – with our dog – we think early human migration through the region could be much more important than some previously suspected,” Lindqvist said.

– Older migrations –

Analysis of the carbon isotope on the bone fragment showed that the ancient dog of southeastern Alaska probably had a seafood diet consisting of the remains of fish and seals and whales.

Lindqvist said the dogs did not suddenly arrive in North America. Some later arrived from East Asia with the Thule people, while Siberian Huskies were imported to Alaska during the Gold Rush in the 19th century.

There is a long debate over whether the first humans entered North America through the continental corridor that formed when the ice sheets receded or along the North Pacific coast thousands of years earlier.

Previous age estimates of the remains of the dogs were younger than the fragment found by Lindqvist and team, suggesting that the dogs arrived on the continent during later, continental migrations.

Lindqvist said her findings support the theory that dogs actually arrived in North America among the first waves of human immigrants.

“We also have evidence that the coastal edge of the ice sheet began to melt at least about 17,000 years ago, while the land corridor was not sustainable about 13,000 years ago,” she told AFP.

“And genetic evidence that the coastal route for the first Americans more than 16,000 years ago seems most likely. Our research supports that our coastal dog is a descendant of the dogs that participated in this initial migration.”