BUFFALO, N.Y. (ABC4) – Utah once was the site of discovery for the remains of the oldest domestic dog in North America. Now, Alaska has taken that crown.
Scientists have found the oldest dog bone in North America in Alaska, and it may shed new light on how humans and dogs moved into the continent.
The find seems to give credence to the theory that dogs accompanied humans to North America, and both traveled along the Pacific Coast.
The bone fragment is 10,150 years old and was discovered in a cave. It is the oldest confirmed remains of a domestic dog discovered in the Americas.
When scientists found the bone they thought it belonged to a bear.
DNA tests proved the bone was from a dog. It is a fragment of the ancient dog’s femur.
In a statement the lead author of the study at the University of Buffalo said This all started out with our interest in how Ice Age climatic changes impacted animals’ survival and movements in this region, Southeast Alaska might have served as an ice-free stopping point of sorts, and now — with our dog — we think that early human migration through the region might be much more important than some previously suspected.”
According to a news release, “Scientists analyzed the mitochondrial genome and concluded that the animal belonged to a lineage of dogs whose evolutionary history diverged from that of Siberian dogs as early as 16,700 years ago. The timing of that split coincides with a period when humans may have been migrating into North America along a coastal route that included Southeast Alaska.”
Before this discovery, the oldest evidence of domestic dogs was found here in Utah, according to an article at ilovehistory.utah.gov “The earliest evidence of domesticated dogs comes from Danger Cave, on the west border of Utah. Archaeologists found dog bones there that are more than 9,000 years old.”
Danger Cave is located East of Wendover and North of the Salt Flat. The cave showed evidence of people living there and was a heavily looted archaeological site before it was protected.
Now remains of dogs that are 9-10,000 years old have been discovered across America.
The history of how dogs came to America is layered. Lindqvist notes, “canines did not arrive all at once. For example, some Arctic dogs arrived later from East Asia with the Thule culture, while Siberian huskies were imported to Alaska during the Gold Rush. Other dogs were brought to the Americas by European colonizers.
“The fossil record of ancient dogs in the Americas is incomplete, so any new remains that are found provide important clues,” says Flavio Augusto da Silva Coelho, a UB Ph.D. student in biological sciences, and one of the paper’s first authors. “Before our study, the earliest ancient American dog bones that had their DNA sequenced were found in the U.S. Midwest.”
The story of humans and dogs in America may have shifted with the discovery. It points to a different path than before.
“Our early dog from Southeast Alaska supports the hypothesis that the first dog and human migration occurred through the Northwest Pacific coastal route instead of the central continental corridor, which is thought to have become viable only about 13,000 years ago,” Coelho notes.