#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. Paleogenetics compared the DNA of modern Greenland dogs, the ancient Siberian husky and the Ice Age wolf and found that the ancestor of all breeds of sled dogs appeared in Siberia about ten thousand years ago.
“Genetic analysis shows that all breeds of sled dogs take their roots in Siberia. It was there, about 9.5 thousand years ago, that the first carriers of genes appeared that are responsible for adapting these highly specialized animals to life in the harsh climate of the Arctic”, the scientists say.
Several regions claim to be the ancestral home of dogs: Europe, Altai, Nepal and the Middle East. In recent years, geneticists and archaeologists have been leaning towards the Siberian origin of all dogs, as evidenced by finds on Zhohov island in Eastern Siberia, as well as the genomes of the oldest American dogs, which turned out to be similar to Siberian huskies and other sled dogs.
In the course of a new study, a group of geneticists and archaeologists, led by Vladimir Pitulko, a senior researcher at the Institute of the History of Material Culture in St. Petersburg, found new evidence for this theory, and also found out the sled dogs all breeds’ homeland. To do this, the researchers compared the modern Greenland dogs’ genomes, the “resurrected” DNA of dogs from Zhohov island and an ancient wolf aged 35 000 years.
The remains of that animal were found on the Taimyr peninsula ten years ago. Thanks to the low temperatures, DNA samples in the predator jaw were unusually well preserved. Thanks to this, scientists were able to study it and compare it with how the genomes of ancient and modern sled dogs are arranged.
The data was compared and combined with the results of various genetic “censuses” of modern dogs and wolves, which were based on data from representatives of 114 breeds or canine family subspecies. By comparing sets of small mutations in their genomes, Pitulko and his colleagues were able to determine the relationship between ancient and modern dogs, as well as study the trajectory of their evolution.
Genetic analysis showed that all three major sled dog breeds: Siberian Laikas, Alaskan Malamutes, and Greenland Dogs, had a common ancestor that lived in Taimyr about ten thousand years ago. Around the same time, the last glaciers that covered most of Eurasia and North America disappeared, thanks to which these dogs and their owners spread throughout the Arctic and acquired a modern look.
Another driving factor in their appearance and spread, according to Pitulko and his colleagues, was that at the same time the ancient inhabitants of Siberia invented the first sled, with which you could quickly move over long distances.
Many Norilsk residents keep sled dogs. A few years ago, a skijoring club appeared in Norilsk. This is an unusual type of sledding sport in which a cross-country skier moves freely along the ski track, and he is pulled along by one or more dogs. In the spring of 2019, skijoring competitions were held in Norilsk outskirts.
Text: Angelica Stepanova, Photo: shutterstock.com