American dog lineages linked to pre-Columbian breeds

MexicanHairless_black_blogTraces of the Americas’ ancient dog breeds can still be found in some of today’s furriest (and not so furry) dogs.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B shows many dog breeds native to the Americas are not descended from European dog breeds. Instead, they share their lineage with dogs from East Asia, which crossed the Bering Land Bridge between Alaska and Russia with humans 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. Researchers already knew that several modern dog breeds were descended from dogs that lived in the Americas prior to the arrival of Europeans and colonization, National Geographic notes. However, what was unknown was how much of their genetics had made it into modern populations.

These breeds include the Inuit sled dog, the Canadian Eskimo dog, the Chihuahua, the Greenland dog, the Xoloitzcuintli (Mexican Hairless dog) and the Peruvian Perro Sin Pelo (Peruvian hairless dog). The study revealed these breeds shared most of their genetic lineages with the pre-Columbia breeds, especially the Chihuahua, which exhibited a particularly striking genetic continuity throughout time.

Other breeds, including the Inuit, Eskimo and Greenland dogs, showed no influences from European lines, while the rest of the breeds demonstrated no more than 30 percent European female lineage. Researchers also linked Carolina dogs, a free-ranging group of canines that make their home in the southern U.S and resemble Australian dingoes, to ancient lineages from East Asia.

The study compared more than 1,000 samples from modern dogs with 19 ancient canine genomes from dog remains found in Alaska and throughout South America.

Want to read the full study? It’s available via open access at the Proceedings of the Royal Society B site here.

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