Tag Archives: dogs

The migration of dogs in the Americas

A new study suggests that dogs may have first successfully migrated to the Americas only about 10,000 years ago, thousands of years after the first human migrants crossed a land bridge from Siberia to North America.

Photo by Angus McNab

Photo by Angus McNab

The study, which looked at the genetic characteristics of 84 individual dogs from more than a dozen sites in North and South America, is the largest analysis so far of ancient dogs in the Americas. The findings appear in the Journal of Human Evolution.

Unlike their wild wolf predecessors, ancient dogs learned to tolerate human company and generally benefitted from the association: they gained access to new food sources, enjoyed the safety of human encampments and, eventually, traveled the world with their two-legged masters. Dogs also were pressed into service as beasts of burden, and sometimes were served as food, particularly on special occasions.

Their 11,000- to 16,000-year association with humans makes dogs a promising subject for the study of ancient human behavior, including migratory behavior, said University of Illinois graduate student Kelsey Witt, who led the new analysis.

“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,” Witt said. “They can be a powerful tool when you’re looking at how human populations have moved around over time.”

Human remains are not always available for study “because living populations who are very connected to their ancestors in some cases may be opposed to the destructive nature of genetic analysis,” Witt said. Analysis of ancient dog remains is often permitted when analysis of human remains is not, she said.

Previous studies of ancient dogs in the Americas focused on the dogs’ mitochondrial DNA, which is easier to obtain from ancient remains than nuclear DNA and, unlike nuclear DNA, is inherited only from the mother. This means mitochondrial DNA offers researchers “an unbroken line of inheritance back to the past,” Witt said.

The new study also focused on mitochondrial DNA, but included a much larger sample of dogs than had been analyzed before.

Source:  University of Illinois press release

 

Autistic children who live with pets are more assertive

Yet another piece of research that points to the value of dogs and other animals.  This time the research was done at the University of Missouri and focused on the social skills of autistic children.

You guessed it – the children who lived with pets developed better social skills including assertiveness.  “When I compared the social skills of children with autism who lived with dogs to those who did not, the children with dogs appeared to have greater social skills,” said Gretchen Carlisle, Research Fellow.

Source:  University of Missouri press release

Doggy quote of the month for January

“If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons.”

– James Thurber, cartoonist (1894 – 1961)

James Thurber dog cartoon

Paleo-dogs ate reindeer

Perhaps not the most festive of postings for this time of year…but researchers from the University of Tübingen and the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment has revealed that dogs that lived 30,000 years ago ate reindeer as a staple in their diet.

reindeer

Předmostí I is an exceptional prehistoric site located near Brno in the Czech Republic. Around 30,000 years ago it was inhabited by people of the pan-European Gravettian culture, who used the bones of more than 1,000 mammoths to build their settlement and to create ivory sculptures. Did prehistoric people collect this precious raw material from carcasses – easy to spot on the big cold steppe – or were they the direct result of hunting for food? This year-round settlement also yielded a large number of canids remains, some of them with characteristics of Palaeolithic dogs. Were these animals used to help hunt mammoths?

To answer these two questions, Tübingen researcher Hervé Bocherens and his international team carried out an analysis of carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes in human and animal fossil bones from the site. Working with researchers from Brno and Brussels, the researchers were able to test whether the Gravettian people of Předmostí ate mammoth meat and how the “palaeolithic dogs” fit into this subsistence picture.

They found that humans did consume mammoth – and in large quantities. Other carnivores, such as brown bears, wolves and wolverines, also had access to mammoth meat, indicating the high availability of fresh mammoth carcasses, most likely left behind by human hunters.

Surprisingly, the dogs did not show a high level of mammoth consumption, but rather consumed essentially reindeer meat that was not the staple food of their owners. A similar situation is observed in traditional populations from northern regions, who often feed their dogs with the food that they do not like. These results also suggest that these early dogs were restrained, and were probably used as transportation helpers.

Source:  AlphaGalileo press release

Dogs and Christmas

Feliz Navidog

Are Christmas and your dog compatible?

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Doggy quote of the month for December

“The more I see of men, the more I admire dogs.”

– Madame Roland (also known as Marie-Jeanne “Manon” Philipon), 1754-1793, French political figure during the French Revolution

Secret Service guard dogs are in spotlight after latest White House fence jumping

Meet the special dogs guarding The White House in Washington DC…

Secret Service K-9 Hurricane - black Belgian Malinois, left, and Jordan - black/tan Belgian Malinois. (Courtesy of U.S. Secret Service)

Secret Service K-9 Hurricane – black Belgian Malinois, left, and Jordan – black/tan Belgian Malinois. (Courtesy of U.S. Secret Service)

Secret Service guard dogs are in spotlight after latest White House fence jumping