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North American Dogs

July 6, 2018

What happened to ancient American dogs, and where did they come from in the first place?

Transcript

Chihuahuas trace their DNA back to European breeds rather than ancient American dogs. BarnImages/Pixabay/CCO)

Chihuahuas trace their DNA back to European dog breeds rather than ancient American dogs. (BarnImages/Pixabay/CCO)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

American dog origins. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Dogs were once widespread across the Americas, but they didn’t descend from North American wolves. Instead, they crossed the Bering land bridge from Siberia alongside humans thousands of years ago, according to a study of their genetic history in the journal Science. But nearly all traces of their DNA have disappeared today, replaced by that of dogs that arrived after European colonization. Cambridge researcher Máire Ní Leathlobhair led the study.

MÁIRE NÍ LEATHLOBHAIR (University of Cambridge):

People might think of Chihuahuas or Labradors or Mexican hairless dogs as native American dogs. But our study suggests that really, the native dogs aren’t there anymore.

HIRSHON:

There’s also evidence that sled dogs like Siberian huskies arrived during the Klondike Gold Rush. It’s not yet known how factors such as disease contributed to the decline of ancient American dogs. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard