Scientists from the University of Illinois who have been studying the remains of ancient dogs found from both the American continents are now suggesting that dogs arrived in America only 10,000 years back. That is much later than the first humans landed on either North or South America using the land bridge which connects Siberia with North America. Till now, dogs were supposed to have arrived in America much earlier than that.
Lead study researcher Kelsey Witt who has earlier studied at the same university says, “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. They can be a powerful tool when you’re looking at how human populations have moved around over time.”
Witt says that the close association of these canines with human beings have made these animals, often referred to as ‘man’s best friend’ a promising subject for studying ancient human behavior including their migration patterns over the globe.
The findings of Kelsey Witt who was also assisted by Ripan Malhi, professor of anthropology, are based on the analysis of mitochondrial of dogs which, unlike nuclear DNA, is inherited only from the mother of these animals. The study of this DNA helps researchers form an unbroken chain of inheritance and go back to the past.
Brian Kemp, a researcher from Washington State University, provided DNA samples from remains found in Colorado and British Columbia for the purpose of this study. In addition to that, the Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS) also provided 35 samples from Janey B, a site located near North America’s first known metropolitan area, a city called Cahokia.
This ancient city of Cahokia, it was found, was especially relevant for the purpose of this study because of the importance that its residents attached to their furry companions. Remains of dogs in this city were found buried individually or back to back in pairs.
It can still not be said with certainty as to when the dogs were first domesticated though there is concrete evidence pointing to the domestication of these animals in Africa, Europe and Asia before the first Americans arrived.