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Tag: analysis

Native American dogs were all but wiped out by settlers from Europe, study says


Ancient dogs arrived in the Americas alongside humans more than 10,000 years and — like those humans — were commonly exterminated by more newly arriving colonists from Europe, a new study suggests.

“European colonists viewed native dogs as kind of pests, and they freely killed them,” said Angela Perri, a research fellow at Durham University in England.

Colonists who killed entire villages of people would also kill their dogs. And when some early Spanish explorers would find themselves without enough food, they’d turn to native American dogs, she added.

In the study, researchers looked at genes from more than 71 archaeological dog remains in North America and Siberia and compared them with modern dog genes.

Perri, the study’s lead author, said it dispels the theory that dogs in the Americas evolved from wolves. The study was published July 5 in the journal Science.

The findings “put a nail in the coffin really for [that] idea,” she told Live Science. In the new data, “we just had absolutely no evidence of that.”

Instead, after analyzing samples from dog remains going back thousands of years from North America and Siberia, they suspect the first dogs came to the Americas more than 10,000 years ago, across the Bering land bridge that connected North America and Asia. The dogs dispersed across the Americas, where they lived for 9,000 years, isolated from the world.

Those were all but wiped out by early American settlers, and most American breeds today more likely trace their roots back to dogs brought to the country subsequently. Those include arctic dogs brought by the Thule people about 1,000 years ago, dogs brought by Europeans starting in the 15th century, and Siberian huskies brought to the American Arctic during the Alaskan gold rush.

By far, the introduction of European settlers and European dogs had the biggest impact on thinning out the ranks of native dogs, the study said.

“We suspect that a lot of the reasons [ancient] dogs were wiped out were similar reasons that Native American populations were destroyed,” Perri said. Europeans could have brought over diseases such as rabies and canine distemper that were probably not present in the Americas before.

Because settlers saw native American dogs as pests, they probably took steps to not let them breed with prized European dogs.

Indeed, out of 5,000 samples of modern dog genes, only five had genes that belonged to ancient dogs, and in those five, the ancient genes made up less than 2 percent of their genomes, Perri said.

The oldest known ancient American dog was found in Koster, Illinois, and lived around 9,900 years ago.

(Photo: Two dogs buried together in Illinois as long as 1,350 years ago; courtesy of Illinois State Archaeological Survey, Prairie Research Institute)

Pawprint in the mud leads to discovery that New Guinea highland wild dogs still exist

hihgland2

After nearly half a century of fearing that the New Guinea highland wild dog had gone extinct in its remote and inhospitable habitat, high in the mountains of New Guinea, a pawprint in the mud has led researchers to confirm the existence of at least 15 of them.

Photographs taken with camera traps and DNA analyses of biological samples confirm the dogs — considered the most ancient breed on earth — are living along New Guinea’s remote central mountain spine.

“The discovery and confirmation of the highland wild dog for the first time in over half a century is not only exciting, but an incredible opportunity for science,” says the group behind the discovery, the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation (NGHWDF).

hihgland1An expedition by the foundation last year led to the discovery of the population — after a member of the group noticed a pawprint in the mud.

New Guinea highland wild dogs were only known from two unconfirmed photographs in recent years — one taken in 2005, and the other in 2012.

They had not been documented with certainty in their native range in over half a century, and experts feared that what was left of the ancient dogs had dwindled to extinction.

Last year, a NGHWDF expedition led by zoologist James K. McIntyre, was joined by local researchers from the University of Papua, who were also seeking the the elusive dogs.

A muddy paw print spotted in September 2016 finally gave them what they were looking for — recent signs that the wild canids still wandered the dense forests of the New Guinea highlands.

The footprint was one McIntyre had left, with his bare feet, while going up the mountain. On the group’s way down the mountain, he noticed it had been joined by a paw print.

Bait was laid. Camera traps were set. And the cameras captured more than 140 images of Highland Wild Dog.

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DNA analysis of fecal fecal samples confirmed that the breed is related to Australian dingos and New Guinea singing dogs – the captive-bred variants of the New Guinea highland wild dog.

The species established itself on the island at least 6,000 years ago, either arriving with human migrants or migrating independently of humans.

The dogs most commonly have a golden coat, but can also be black, tan or cream colors. Their tails curl up over their backsides and their ears sit erect on their heads.

According to the NGHWDF, there are roughly 300 New Guinea singing dogs remaining in the world, living in zoos and private homes. They are known for their high-pitched howls, often carried out in chorus with one another.

A scientific paper on the discovery is expected to be released in the coming months.

(Photos: NGHWDF)

Study says dogs go back no more than 12,000 years

skulls

A new study has a bone to pick with earlier researchers who concluded the domesticated dog has been around for 30,000 years.

New 3D analysis of skulls that had been identified as two of the earliest dogs shows they were actually wolves, a research team writes in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

Fossilized remains that scientists said showed dogs date back at least 31,680 years — specifically those remains unearthed at Goyet Cave in Belgium — actually belonged to a wolf, according to a new study. So too, the new study says, did a 13,905-year-old fossil that was identified as belonging to a dog after it was found at a site called Eliseevichi in Russia.

The new study concludes that the the domestication of dogs happened during the Neolithic era (10,200 B.C.-2,000 B.C.) as opposed to the Paleolithic era (2.6 million years ago to 10,200 B.C.)

“Scientists have been eager to put a collar on the earliest domesticated dog,” lead author Abby Grace Drake said. “Unfortunately, their analyses weren’t sensitive enough to accurately determine the identity of these fossils.”

“Previous research has claimed that dogs emerged in the Paleolithic but this claim is based on inaccurate analyses,” Drake told Discovery News. “We reanalyzed some of the fossil canids from the Paleolithic and show that they are, in fact, wolves.”

“We did confirm that the Neolithic specimens Shamanka II (around 7,372 years old) and Ust’-Belaia (about 6,817 years old) are dogs, and therefore domestication took place by this time period or earlier,” added Drake, an assistant professor of biology at Skidmore College.

That means the wolves — who are generally (but not unanimously) believed to have evolved into dogs, possibly as a result of their interacting with humans — first appeared on earth after humans were farming and living in settlements, as opposed to when they were living in caves and hunting and gathering.

Drake and colleagues Michael Coquerelle and Guillaume Colombeau used scans and 3D visualization software to study the shape and size of the two oldest skulls and compare the data with measurements from the skulls of other dogs and wolves, according to a report on Phys.org.

That technique allowed the team to identify subtle morphological differences between dogs and wolves, such as the direction of the eye cavity and the angle between the muzzle and forehead.

(Photo: Abby Grace Drake, Skidmore College)

Suspicious meatballs found in San Francisco

sfmeatballs

For the second time in less than a year, someone is scattering what are suspected to be poisoned meatballs in a San Francisco neighborhood in an apparent attempt to murder dogs.

A San Francisco animal control officer Saturday found 34 meatballs scattered around the Twin Peaks neighborhood, where a similar incident occurred last year.

The meatballs were placed along curbs and in hedges and bushes, where they’re more likely to be sniffed out by dogs and less likely to be spotted by humans.

“These were incredibly well-hidden,” Lt. Denise BonGiovanni said.

An animal control officer was sent to search the area near Crestline Drive and Parkridge Drive Saturday after a resident called Friday to report finding fragments of suspicious meatballs.

The officer found 34 pieces of raw meat containing something solid. A 35th ball of meat was turned over to the officer by a resident who picked it up before her dog could eat it, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The meatballs have been turned over to the San Francisco Police Department for testing.

“They look very similar to the ones found last year,” BonGiovanni said.

Last July, a 7-year-old dachshund died and another dog was sickened after eating meatballs the police believe were filled with strychnine.

No arrest was made in the case.

Since last week’s incident, the city’s Animal Care and Control staff have posted more than 50 warning signs in the neighborhood. Residents of the neighborhood are being advised to keep their pets inside, or keep them on a short leash when walking.

“If your dog picks up anything and starts to eat it, I wouldn’t waste time, I would take it to a vet,” BonGiovanni said. “We haven’t confirmed it’s poison but it’s not worth taking chances.”

San Francisco police are asking anyone with information that could help the investigation to call their anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444.

(Photo: Provided by San Francisco Police Department)

Researchers unearth evidence of America’s earliest dog … and proof that it was eaten

A University of Maine graduate student says he has found a bone fragment from what he believes is the earliest domesticated dog ever found in the Americas — one that walked the continent 9,400 years ago.

And where he found it — ensconced in a dried-out sample of human waste — gives proof that eating dog was part of America’s culture, at least before America was America.

Graduate student Samuel Belknap III came across the fragment while analyzing a sample of human waste unearthed in  the 1970s. Carbon-dating placed the age of the bone at 9,400 years, and a DNA analysis confirmed it came from a dog — as opposed to a wolf, coyote or fox.

The Associated Press  reports that the fragment — which was the dark orange color characteristic of bone that has passed through the digestive track — was found in Hinds Cave in southwest Texas. 

The fragment provides the earliest evidence that dogs were eaten by humans in North America, and may have been bred as a food source, he said.

Belknap was studying the diet and nutrition of the people  in the Lower Pecos region of Texas between 1,000 and 10,000 years ago when he came across the bone.

Belknap and other researchers from the University of Maine and the University of Oklahoma’s molecular anthropology laboratories, where the DNA analysis was done, have written a paper on their findings, scheduled for publication in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology later this year.

The fragment is about six-tenths of an inch long and three- to four-tenths of an inch wide. Belknap said he and a fellow student identified the bone as a fragment from where the skull connects with the spine. He said it came from a dog that probably resembled the small short-haired dogs that were common among the Indians of the Great Plains.

Other archaeological findings have found evidence of domestic dogs in the U.S. as long as 8,000 years ago.

A 1980s study reported dog bones found at Danger Cave, Utah, were between 9,000 and 10,000 years old, but those dates were based on an analysis of the surrounding rock laters as opposed to carbon dating. In Idaho, researchers believed they’d found 11,000-year-old dog bones, but later tests showed them to be no more than 3,000 years old.

Worldwide, studies have found evidence of dogs going back 31,000 years from a site in Belgium, 26,000 years in the Czech Republic and 15,000 years in Siberia.

The earliest dogs in North America are believed to have come with the early settlers across the Bering land bridge from Asia.

Belknap said eating dogs was once common in Central America, and that some Great Plain Indian tribes ate dogs when food was scarce or for celebrations.

 “It was definitely an accepted practice among many populations,” he said.

Where to next: In search of Chupacabra?


As we ponder where to go next on our road trip to nowhere, we’re feeling drawn to Texas — where two stories this week have piqued our curiosity.

First is the tale, told yesterday, of the Methodist pastor who’s calling for a stray dog hanging out behind his church to be shot, and the ire that has raised. Second are the two recent sightings — and subsequent terminations — of alleged Chupacabra, the legendary dog-like creatures who, according to myth, suck the blood of goats (which is what Chupacabra means in Spanish).

In the past week, two of the coyote-like creatures were spotted within 10 miles of each other, outside of Dallas, one of which was bagged by an animal control officer. The other was shot by a rancher. News reports seem to give no reason behind the shootings, other than the fact that the animals were “ugly.”

“All I know is, it wasn’t normal. It was ugly. Real ugly,” said Frank Hackett, the animal control officer who killed one of the creatures.

Reports of Chupacabra sightings are fairly rare; there’s one about about every year — including this one, where a law enforcement official followed and videotaped what he thought could have been one.

Of course, there are plenty of modern-day theories — ranging from them being pets left here by extraterrestrials to them being the result of government experiments gone awry. More often than not, though, they turn out to be coyotes with skin problems.

News reports say neither of the two slain creatures has been identified, though the DNA of at least one of them is being analyzed.

There is no documentation that the species or sub-species exists; instead the word “Chupacabra” has become a catch-all term for anything dog-like, but not immediately identifiable, kind of like Bigfoot is for anything hairy, human-like and not immediately identifiable.

This won’t be the first alleged Chupacabra to have its DNA tested. In 2007, Texas State University biologist Mike Forstner performed a test on what turned out to be a coyote.

Another strong possibility, I’d suspect, is that some of the “beasts” that have been spotted are actually Xoloitzcuintle, a Mexican hairless dog breed.

In any event, we’re headed east, and Dallas is on the way. If that’s where we end up, we’ll let you know what we find out.

Condo board dumps DNA poop proposal

The proposal to establish a DNA database of every dog who resides in Baltimore’s Scarlett Place Condominiums — all in hopes of figuring out who’s not picking up their dog’s poop — appears to have been dumped.

At a meeting of the condo’s board this week, the proposal was tabled and the decision was made to to pursue more “realistic and acceptable” alternatives.

While the meeting was closed to the public, a resident correspondent reports on the Baltimore Sun’s Unleashed blog that the board chairman said that other alternatives to finding the culprit would receive further study.

Under the proposal, every dog in Scarlett Place would have had to provide a DNA sample. Any unpicked-up poop found at the building would then be sent to an out of state laboratory for comparison. The owner of the dog linked to the poop would then face fines.

Unleashed author Jill Rosen wrote that, after breaking the story, she was originally invited to attend the meeting, but uninvited when the story developed legs, appearing in publications and on websites across the globe, thereby, in my view, bringing the luxury condominium the embarassment it deserved.

Richard Hopp, a Scarlett Place resident, reported to Unleashed that the condo board, in a standing room only meeting, “tabled the proposal.” Not a single resident spoke in favor of it, he said, and the board member who came up with the idea wasn’t present.

“For what it is worth, my take on this is that the board members realized they had really ‘stepped in it’ with their doggy DNA proposal,” Hopp reported, “and in order to save face, they tabled the matter, rather than just vote it down and move on…”