Scientists claim that dogs did not arrive in the Americas at the same time as humans.
Scientists from the University of Illinois have been examining the remains of ancient dogs from both North and South America, gathering genetic evidence which suggests that dogs arrived thousands of years later than the first human inhabitants of the continent.
“Dogs are one of the earliest organisms to have migrated with humans to every continent, and I think that says a lot about the relationship dogs have had with humans,” said Kelsey Witt, study leader. “They can be a powerful tool when you’re looking at how human populations have moved around over time.”
According to their report in the Journal of Human Evolution, the researchers have discovered that dogs have a more recent history than previously thought. By analyzing the mitochondrial DNA, researchers have cast into doubt previous studies which had proposed that dogs arrived in Alaska 40,000 to 20,000 years ago. The new information suggests that canines arrived 10,000 years ago.
Ancient dogs: Domestication and breeding efforts
Once dogs learned to live side-by-side with humans they realized that it brought the benefit of different food sources and increased safety, and they soon became accustomed to moving around the world with their human masters.
Although it may seem unlikely, the analysis of dog remains is in fact of great benefit in building a more detailed picture of human migrations. Some cultures do not permit genetic analysis of ancient human remains, but do seem willing to allow genetic analysis of dog remains, which can be used to fill in the holes.
The new samples used in this latest study contained 4 new genetic signatures, thus it would appear that there was greater diversity in dog populations than previously thought.
At the same time, certain ancient dog populations displayed interestingly low levels of genetic diversity. Researchers claim that this points to the existence of dog breeding efforts in ancient human communities, in order to exaggerate certain characteristics and attempt to eliminate others.