The Evolutionary History of Dogs in the Americas

Science Vol. 361, Issue 6397, pp. 81-85. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aao4776

In this paper, based on my early DPhil research, we show that domestic dogs likely accompanied humans during the peopling of the Americas, from a source population of Arctic dogs originating in Eastern Siberia. This unique lineage of pre-contact dogs rapidly diversified across the North American continent and evolved in relative isolation for >10,000 years. Following the arrival of European colonists, pre-contact dogs were quickly replaced by European dogs, and have left almost no genetic legacy in modern American dogs. Surprisingly, the most closely related living organism to these pre-contact dogs is not a dog, but is instead an 8,000-year-old contagious cancer clone, known as Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumour (CTVT).

For more information, read the full article or check out some of the selected media coverage below. This paper is in the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric.

 
 
The Atlantic (MARIO ANZUONI / REUTERS)

The Atlantic (MARIO ANZUONI / REUTERS)

The Original American Dogs Are Gone

The closest living relative of the precolonial canines isn’t even a dog. It’s a contagious cancer.

The Atlantic, Ed Yong, 05 July 2018

Between 14,000 and 18,000 years ago, the ancestors of today’s Native Americans first entered the land where they now live. They came from Asia, walking east across a broad land bridge that connected the two continents, snaking south past a stretch of retreating glaciers, and eventually spreading across a new land. A few millennia later, dogs followed them.

The origin of those indigenous American dogs is unclear—as is their fate. Some say they were wiped out after European colonizers arrived in the 15th century, bringing their own dogs with them. Others believe their genes still exist in modern-day Chihuahuas and Xolos.

 
The New York Times (Del Baston, courtesy of the Center for American Archeology)

The New York Times (Del Baston, courtesy of the Center for American Archeology)

The Lost Dogs of the Americas

Exhaustive DNA studies find that the dogs of European colonists completely replaced ancient American dogs.

The New York Times, James Gorman, 05 July 2018

Before Europeans began to colonize the Americas about 500 years ago, the land, north and south, was populated with people who had been here for thousands of years. And their dogs.

The devastation visited on the native human inhabitants of North and South America is well known. Whether their dogs survived in some form, perhaps only as a portion of the DNA of some modern dogs, has been a matter of dispute. The available evidence indicated that only traces were present in current breeds and mixed breed dogs, but questions remained.

 
The Daily Mail (Julie McMahon)

The Daily Mail (Julie McMahon)

Native American dog breeds were almost completely wiped out by the arrival of Europeans, new research shows

Canines had lived alongside American tribes for more than 9,000 years. Arrival of Europeans in the beginning of the 15th century wiped them out. Disease, cultural persecution and biological changes are likely to blame.

The Daily Mail, Phoebe Weston, 05 July 2018

Native American dog breeds were almost completely wiped out by the arrival of Europeans, according to new research. The canines had lived happily alongside indigenous American tribes for more than 9,000 years. But the arrival of Europeans and their pets in the beginning of the 15th century all but wiped out ancient native or 'pre-contact' dogs. Dogs that we think of as American - such as the Labrador and Chihuahuas - are in fact descended from dogs from the Old World, researchers found. Their near-total disappearance was probably due to the combined effects of disease, cultural persecution and biological changes.