America’s oldest dog discovery

❝ Some 10,000 years ago, in what is now Koster, Illinois, a dog died. Its adopted group of hunter gatherers carefully laid the pup to rest in its own grave among their buried human dead, curled on its side as if it were asleep.

Today, this may not seem surprising — after all, modern dogs are often more “fur baby” than pet. But this ancient Illinois dog, and a duo of other canines buried right nearby, are remarkable: They’re the oldest known individually buried canines found anywhere in the world, according to new research on the pre-print server Biorxiv. What’s more, they provide the earliest physical evidence for dogs in the Americas.

❝ The remains of these creatures has also proved key to solving an important canine conundrum: What happened to the dogs of ancient North America? Did they intermix with dogs brought by European settlers? And what breeds today can call them ancestors? A second new study, published in the journal Science, uses a battery of DNA analyses of both modern and ancient canines to search for clues.

Dogs are an important part of my extended family’s life. Lots of reasons. Lots of personal family tales. Many of you probably have similar tales, experiences in your own life.

I can tell you names of dogs living with folks I follow on Twitter – when I can’t recall names of their partners or children. 🙂 Right, Cooper? Right, J.K.Growling?

All non-Africans have at least a touch of Neanderthal

If your heritage is non-African, you are part Neanderthal, according to a new study in the July issue of Molecular Biology and Evolution…This latest research confirms earlier findings.

Damian Labuda of the University of Montreal’s Department of Pediatrics and the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center conducted the study with his colleagues. They determined some of the human X chromosome originates from Neanderthals, but only in people of non-African heritage.

“This confirms recent findings suggesting that the two populations interbred,” Labuda was quoted as saying in a press release. His team believes most, if not all, of the interbreeding took place in the Middle East, while modern humans were migrating out of Africa and spreading to other regions…

Neanderthals possessed the gene for language and had sophisticated music, art and tool craftsmanship skills, so they must have not been all that unattractive to modern humans at the time.

“In addition, because our methods were totally independent of Neanderthal material, we can also conclude that previous results were not influenced by contaminating artifacts,” Labuda said.

This work goes back to nearly a decade ago, when Labuda and his colleagues identified a piece of DNA, called a haplotype, in the human X chromosome that seemed different. They questioned its origins…

David Reich, a Harvard Medical School geneticist, added, “Dr. Labuda and his colleagues were the first to identify a genetic variation in non-Africans that was likely to have come from an archaic population. This was done entirely without the Neanderthal genome sequence, but in light of the Neanderthal sequence, it is now clear that they were absolutely right!”

The modern human/Neanderthal combo likely benefitted our species, enabling it to survive in harsh, cold regions that Neanderthals previously had adapted to.

“Variability is very important for long-term survival of a species,” Labuda concluded. “Every addition to the genome can be enriching.”

Someone should explain that to the populist puritans still marching to the George Wallace drum from decades past. Meanwhile –

The admixture and uniting of Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon streams in comparatively modern hominids is something that many students of ethnology felt would be proved sooner or later. Some thought reluctance to accept the work offered by Professor Labuda was prompted more by hopes of “purity” than reality. Folks have to understand that human beings have sex with just about anyone, anytime, anywhere – given the opportunity.