The first people to settle in the Americas some 15,000 years ago traveled from northeast Asia and were accompanied by canine companions, a new study reveals.
A team of international researches examined at a trove of archaeological and genetic records of ancient people and dogs and found both had traveled together west into the rest of Eurasia and then east into the Americas.
These findings also suggest dog domestication first took place in Siberia at least 23,000 years ago and may have been a result of the region’s harsh climatic conditions.
The land connecting Canada and Russia and most of Siberia were extremely cold and may have forced humans and wolves into close proximity due to their attraction to the same prey – thus sparking a relationship between the two.
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The first people to settle in the Americas some 15,000 years ago traveled from northeast Asia and were accompanied by canine companions, a new study reveals
Co-author Professor Greger Larson, Oxford University, said: ‘Researchers have previously suggested that dogs were domesticated across Eurasia from Europe to China, and many places in between.’
‘The combined evidence from ancient humans and dogs is helping to refine our understanding of the deep history of dogs, and now points toward Siberia and Northeast Asia as a likely region where dog domestication was initiated.’
Numerous studies have looked into the story of man’s best friend, with some works suggesting humans first domesticated the wild animals 20,000 to 40,000 years ago.
However, the new study led by archaeologist Dr Angela Perri of Durham University investigates the origins of pet dogs.
The land connecting Canada and Russia and most of Siberia were extremely cold and may have forced humans and wolves into close proximity due to their attraction to the same prey – thus sparking a relationship between the two
The team analyzed archaeological and genetic records of ancient people and dogs, which revealed the first people to make the journey from northeast Asia to the Americas did some 15,000 years ago –and they brought their pet dogs.
This discover, according to researchers, suggest that dog domestication likely took place in Siberia before 23,000 years ago.
And they both ventured into the rest of Eurasia followed by going east in the Americas across the maritime bridge that once connected Canada and Russia, known as Beringia.
The data suggests it was a group called the North Siberians may have been the first people to first domesticate wolves by feeding them leftovers.
The Americas were one of the last regions in the world to be settled by people and by the time the first settlers crossed over to the new world, dogs had already been domesticated from their wild wolf ancestors.
Research lead author Dr Angela Perri, in the Department of Archaeology at Durham University, said: ‘When and where have long been questions in dog domestication research, but here we also explored the how and why, which have often been overlooked.’
The Americas were one of the last regions in the world to be settled by people and by the time the first settlers crossed over to the new world, dogs had already been domesticated from their wild wolf ancestors
‘Dog domestication occurring in Siberia answers many of the questions we’ve always had about the origins of the human-dog relationship.’
‘By putting together the puzzle pieces of archaeology, genetics and time we see a much clearer picture where dogs are being domesticated in Siberia, then disperse from there into the Americas and around the world.’
During the Last Glacial Maximum, which took place from 23,000 to 19,000 years ago, Beringia and most of Siberia, was extremely cold, dry, and largely unglaciated.
The harsh climatic conditions leading up to, and during this period may have served to bring human and wolf populations into close proximity given their attraction to the same prey.
This increasing interaction, through mutual scavenging of kills from wolves drawn to human campsites, may have began a relationship between the species that eventually led to dog domestication, and a vital role in the populating of the Americas.
As co-author and archaeologist David Meltzer of Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX) notes, ‘We have long known that the first Americans must have possessed well-honed hunting skills, the geological know-how to find stone and other necessary materials and been ready for new challenges.
‘The dogs that accompanied them as they entered this completely new world may have been as much a part of their cultural repertoire as the stone tools they carried.’
Since their domestication from wolves, dogs have played a wide variety of roles in human societies, many of which are tied to the history of cultures worldwide.
Future archaeological and genetic research will reveal how the emerging mutual relationship between people and dogs led to their successful dispersal across the globe.
DOGS FIRST BECAME DOMESTICATED ABOUT 20,000 to 40,000 YEARS AGO
A genetic analysis of the world’s oldest known dog remains revealed that dogs were domesticated in a single event by humans living in Eurasia, around 20,000 to 40,000 years ago.
Dr Krishna Veeramah, an assistant professor in evolution at Stony Brook University, told MailOnline: ‘The process of dog domestication would have been a very complex process, involving a number of generations where signature dog traits evolved gradually.
‘The current hypothesis is that the domestication of dogs likely arose passively, with a population of wolves somewhere in the world living on the outskirts of hunter-gatherer camps feeding off refuse created by the humans.
‘Those wolves that were tamer and less aggressive would have been more successful at this, and while the humans did not initially gain any kind of benefit from this process, over time they would have developed some kind of symbiotic [mutually beneficial] relationship with these animals, eventually evolving into the dogs we see today.’