Dogs probably accompanied humans to the Americas after the Ice Age.
Researchers have narrowed down a timeline of when man’s best friend may have migrated to North America based on a 10,000-year-old dog bone fragment found in southeastern Alaska.
The femur fragment, smaller than the size of a dime, was discovered by surprise as scientists studied how climate changes during the Ice Age affected the animals’ survival and movements, according to a news release from the University of Buffalo.
Researchers were sequencing DNA from a collection of hundreds of bones found in the region years ago when they realized that the tiny bone, originally thought to have come from a bear, contained DNA from a dog that lived about 10,150 years ago. according to the statement.
“This all started with our interest in how the climatic changes of the Ice Age affected the survival and movements of animals in this region,” said evolutionary biologist at the University of Buffalo, Charlotte Lindqvist, lead author of the study published today. Tuesday in the British magazine The Royal Society. it said in a statement. “Southeast Alaska could have served as a kind of ice-free stopping point, and now, with our dog, we believe that early human migration through the region could be much more important than some suspected.”
Dogs were domesticated in Europe between 32,000 and 18,800 years ago. The findings suggest that dogs first migrated to the Americas about 16,000 years ago, according to the study.
The bone’s DNA suggests it came from a canine that separated from a Siberian dog 16,700 years ago, the scientists determined. The timing of that split coincides with a period when humans may have been migrating to North America along a coastal route that included southeastern Alaska.
There have been multiple waves of dogs migrating to the Americas, according to the study. Arctic dogs came from East Asia with the Thule, ancestors of all modern Inuit peoples that inhabit the Arctic. Siberian huskies were imported to Alaska during the gold rush, and other dogs were brought in by European settlers.
But, the exact time frame of when the dogs first ventured into the Americas was previously unclear. The bone findings coincide with when humans first arrived in the Americas, after the last Ice Age, when coastal glaciers began to recede.
This suggests that “dogs accompanied the first humans to enter the New World,” according to the study.
“The history of dogs has been intertwined, since ancient times, with that of the humans who domesticated them,” the statement said.
However, the fossil record of ancient dogs on the North American continent is still incomplete, so any new remains discovered will provide important clues, said University of Buffalo biological sciences student Flavio Augusto da Silva Coelho.
Before the discovery, the first ancient dog bones found in the United States were in the Midwest, Coelho said.