When Did Man’s Best Friend Accompany Him to the New World?

Mesopotamian clay plaque
This ancient Mesopotamian clay plaque appears to include the etching of an Assyrian dog and its owner. (Mohamad137026, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Jim Brace-Thompson

It’s long been postulated that humans crossed over from Siberia to North America either via a land bridge that emerged during the Ice Ages or via kayaks paddling the shorelines between two continents. But just when did this occur?

That debate has raged strong and fierce among paleoanthropologists. Due to a paucity of human bones and datable finds from the very periods that could answer such a question, the debate remains undetermined. And this just adds fuel to the fire in an already hot debate.

But now, scientists know that 10,150 years ago, man’s best friend had made the move.

That’s what radiocarbon dating of a canine femur from an Alaskan cave suggests, says Charlotte Lindqvist (State University of New York at Buffalo) in a new study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. At least three other dog fossils of comparable age had previously been found in Ice Age deposits of Midwestern states of the U.S. This suggests dogs had long before crossed over from Eurasia into the Americas.

The new fossil offered DNA that could be extracted, analyzed, and compared to wolves, domesticated dogs, and other ancient canines with preserved DNA. The comparative analysis suggests that this fossil dog split from Siberian dogs 16,700 years ago. As it turns out, this is around the time that some scientists argue humans were making the move from Asia to North America. If true, apparently they were taking Rover on over for the ride!

Author: Jim Brace-Thompson

JimBraceThompson Jim began and oversees the AFMS Badge Program for kids, has been inducted into the National Rockhound & Lapidary Hall of Fame within their Education Category, and is the president-elect for the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies.
Contact him at jbraceth@roadrunner.com.


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